Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Lords Seat from Braithwaite

cold and dark

Jonny, Joanne, Jonathan and I.  We started at Braithwaite church and ran up the road, taking the track off on the right and picking our way through dark trails up into the forest and ultimately to the summit of Lords Seat.  I got there a little bit ahead of the others.  It was very spooky with the mist blowing past in the dark being lit up by my headtorch.

Lord's seat is a good option for the dark though.  Pretty easy to stick on the track and there is additional shelter provided by the forest.


Sunday, October 25, 2015

Barf and Lords Seat

from Barf summit looking over towards the Skiddaw fells

Some strange goings on today.  I parked at Powter Howe and followed the track straight up the beck below The Bishop.  As I approached the top of Barf I saw a couple of people in big ponchos and wellies.  The woman had a selfie stick and was busy filming herself descending from the top.  It takes all sorts eh?  I said "hello" and carried on.  Up on top, I stopped to chill for a bit.  I could smell smoke and wondered if there was a big fire on one of the farm fields way below.  Then I looked just past the summit and saw one of those disposable barbecue trays, still smoking.  I assumed that it was the people I had just seen that left it.  Nice eh?

I ran over to Lords Seat and then took the usual track down, turning off to pick up the Barf descent track.  I ran past the same people on the way back around.  I gave them a stern look.  That should teach them!

smouldering coals on the grass

strange people

up at Lord's Seat

nice view of Barf on the way back down

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Ling Fell

top of Ling Fell with the Hardly train coming in

Wednesday night runs with my little running club make me so happy.  Tonight we took the classic coffin road route up to Ling Fell summit before heading steeply down easterly from the top to pick up the track around the south of the fell.  We followed this to the Green Lonning at the west of the fell taking the road for about 3/4 of a mile back to the starting point.


Sunday, October 18, 2015

Dunnerdale Forest Run

Harter Fell summit

The plan for this run was a round of the Duddon Horseshoe.  It's a route I did a few years ago, a nice 17 or so miles, although I extended it slightly.  Our fortunate position of living right next to the Western Lake District means that we sometimes see these southern fells as a bit of a hike.  I think we drove for an hour!  Alastair and David were looking forward to visiting some less frequented fells as well as the challenge of the route.  When it came down to it, David's foot problem meant that we sensibly cut the route short after five or so miles and took a relatively flat route back to the car.

Starting from the Newfield Inn at Seathwaite, the route goes around the local climbing hotspot of Wallowbarrow Crag and into Dunnerdale Forest.  It goes through the forest.  The path is much improved at this stage compared to the last time I was here.  As soon as you leave the forest, you climb steeply up to Harter Fell.  After taking the north western grassy track over to the high point of Hardknott Pass, the route crosses the road and goes up to Hardknott fell.  Due to David's injury, we stopped at the road.  We went down the road to the bottom of the steepest part, past a stationary car with the familiar smell of burning clutch in the air, to the point where a footpath and good track turns south off the road along the side of the River Duddon.  This was a nice track although some recent logging activity has made it less pleasant in a few spots.  It brought us back around the opposite side of Wallowbarrow Crag and an impressive boulder field scree back to the car and a quick pint in the Newfield Inn.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Lords Seat

at the summit - fading light

Feeling recovered from the 3x3000 Ultra, this was a nice weekday run with no pressure.  I met with Alastair and David and we drove up to Whinlatter Visitor's Centre.  We wound our way through the woods and I was pleased to manage to run all the way to the summit without stopping.

We got to the top in the last of the daylight and headtorches were used for the easier run back down.

Great run out and a good catch up.  Cheers guys.

me and David.  Bit blurry in low light

Alastair at Lords Seat summit.  The Dodds visible behind.

Saturday, October 10, 2015


home turf

Sale Fell on my own.  First fell since 3x3000 Ultra.  I went at my own pace, chilled out and thought about life.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

3 x 3000 Ultra 2015

heading into daylight at Seathwaite

The 3 x 3000 Ultra was an event I looked at last year and thought, wow! Maybe someday.  It's a race that takes in the three fells in the Lake District which are over 3000ft, linking them up with a 50 mile route.  Last year's horrendous weather conditions added to the perceived impossibility of the event.  This year, I wasn't actually that phased about it.  I did the usual, sign up after not much persuasion from my friend Paul.

heading up Broad Crag.
Leading up to race day, I found out that a really good old friend of mine had died.  It had really upset me and I had been feeling down the whole week.  Come race day, I was pretty indifferent on the race, looking at it like it was a job to do.  I thought, I'll get up and down Scafell Pike and see how I feel after that.

An early 5am start to the race.  I set off with Paul and his mate Pete, pretty much right at the back.  The trails from Keswick along the side of Derwent Water up to Watendlath are familiar and fairly easy going.  I was trying to take it easy but was pushed along somewhat due to the single track nature of much of the trail and being pushed on knowing that people are behind me.  I pushed on a bit at Ashness Bridge but walked the hills on the road until I picked up the trail alongside Watendlath Beck.  I took it easy on the fast descent from Watendlath and then ran along through Seathwaite where I met enough daylight to take the headtorch off.  I found the walk up to Styhead Tarn easier than usual but the corridor route always catches me out.  I got the sticks out for the first time here and had a few gels.

heading towards Esk Hause.  The Langdale Pikes in the
distance floating over a nice cloud layer
The run down and over Broad Crag wasn't too bad.  The weather was pretty much perfect for running.  Pretty clear conditions, quite cool, hardly any wind.  I had to admit that I was enjoying myself.

The track from Esk Hause over towards Langdale was the start of the section that I wanted to recce last week.  It turned out that the event was really well marked out and there was very little chance of getting lost.

I had taken a different way to High Raise on my recce run, the event took a very direct line across boggy ground.  More gels into me and from the top, it was easy to pick the route down to the god-awful valley of Whythburn.

Tim's photo of me, Paul and Pete on the way up to Latrigg
The Whythburn valley was as awful as I thought it would be.  I had chosen trainers for cushioning rather than grip.  I was falling all over the place.  The weather had been pretty dry leading up to the race but it was still wet and boggy down here.

Eventually, I made it onto the road and around to the Whythburn church checkpoint and aid station.  This was a drop bag point.  I had a few items in my drop bag that were absolute winners: a little bottle of fresh orange juice and a fresh pair of socks.  As I sat changing my socks, Paul and Pete caught up and we completed the rest of the event together.  We hung around for quite a bit here but then eventually headed up the steep climb to Helvellyn.  This was definitely the hardest climb of the day but I think we all knew we had it in the bag from here.

Skiddaw - it's all downhill after that!
The run across the dodds is always nice.  This is my favourite direction to do it in.  As we headed across, we saw our, soon to be friend Tim, at one point we saw him fall on his arse, at another point we saw him head up Great Dodd, which you don't have to do!

The run down Clough Head was really hard.  Again, I was slipping in my old shoes.  As we ran along the track, Tim caught up with us at the next checkpoint and then again as we started to climb Latrigg.

At the race briefing, they had said that, if when you get to Latrigg carpark, you are really tired and don't want to do an extra ten miles around and over Skiddaw, you can turn left down into Keswick.  They said that they would still give you a finishers time - that they wouldn't consider it a DNF.  I thought at the time that this would be very tempting but, despite being tired and sore, there was no way any of us wasn't going to put that last ten miles in.

My knee started to hurt as we passed Skiddaw House.  Paul gave me some ibuprofen which seemed to sort it out.  We both dosed up on gels.  The final climb up to Bakestall wasn't as almighty god-awful as I thought it would be.  We broke up the climb and I had my sticks which helped a lot.  At the fence corner, we put on jackets and other warm items.  I put my headtorch back in my pocket and it was on at the top of Skiddaw.  I was really pleased to get to this point in the daylight.  My aim had been to get down off the dodds before it got dark.

There was a self-clip checkpoint on Skiddaw summit before we enjoyed a nice run down to the car park and last checkpoint.  A few swigs of coke and then we chilled our way down the Spooney Green Lane path.  We walked past the leisure centre, and past the park, thinking we would save our energy for a final run into town.

at the end.
Well this was a great race.  It got me out of my slump.  Definitely the hardest in terms of longest, most elevation.  The easy pace I took it at meant that it didn't feel as though it took as much out of me as some of the events this year that I have tried to get a decent time in.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Scafell Section Recce

from High Raise

I had been conned into entering the 3 x 3000 Ultra race, a 50 mile race taking in the three summits in the Lake District over 3000ft in height.  I was familiar with most of the course but had never been down the Whythburn valley, mainly due to everybody saying how awful and boggy it is.

at the start, running along the track by the side of Dunmail Raise
looking towards Thirlmere before climbing the fells to the left
I had a route planned out which would allow me to take in the return leg from Scafell Pike to Whythburn church and would cover about 20 miles, meaning it could double as a good training run for the actual event.

This went over the fells passing Harrop and Blea Tarns to Watendlath before picking up the race route.

up at the beautiful Harrop Tarn
the fence going up to High Tove.  I've been along the fence,
 I've crossed overand kept the high line and I've crossed over
 on the footpath past Blea Tarn (today's route).  There isn't a
 dry way over but I'd say the footpath is the least wettest out
 of those oprions.
After discovering that the Armboth Car Park wanted about £7 for parking, I drove on to the Bob Graham verge at the side of Dunmail Pass and parked there, following the footpath over to Steel End Farm where I crossed the road to the Thirlmere shoreline path.  I then climbed steeply to Harrop Tarn and on to Blea Tarn.  Tough ground on this section, very boggy and then a steep descent into the hanging valley of Watendlath before taking on the familiar route through Rosthwaite and on to Seathwaite.  I took the shorter route around the tarns going straight from Styhead Pass to Esk Hause (or the shelter just by Esk Hause), missing out on the summit of Scafell Pike in an effort to save some energy in my legs but also because I was finding it tough going.

Blea Tarn, quite lovely
The Esk Hause shelter marked the start of the unfamiliar territory.  Once I had picked out the track over towards Rosset Pike, it was pretty easy to find the way, following the path over to Angle Tarn.  From here I took a path up towards the Langdale Pikes, contouring round a bit to High Raise.  The actual race route takes a much steeper and more difficult direct ascent to High Raise, the big fell they don't really tell you about on the 3 x 3000, it still reaches 2500ft and is a significant climb.

another beauty of a tarn - Watendlath
I met some Duke of Edinburgh award people there, planning to camp in Langstrath valley.  I picked my way over rough ground (more direct but tougher going than the race route) to pick up the famously wet and boggy Whythburn valley.  By this point, I had some pretty bad blisters on my feet.
I should have stopped at High Raise to sort my feet out but pressed on.  Quite a bit of walking towards the end until I got back on the road and then crossed over to take the footpath on the east side of Dunmail Raise, heading back to the car.

This was a tough run.  Only 23 miles but felt like a lot longer.  On reflection, some long runs in the last few weeks.  I could have done with a rest!

past Styhead Tarn and on to Sprinkling Tarn.  Green and Great Gables behind

from near Esk Hause looking towards Langdale

Angle Tarn with Bowfell behind

Monday, September 21, 2015


Binsey summit

Fiona makes a rare appearance
Binsey was a good option for an easy recovery run after the Cumbria Way Ultra relay a few days before.  As my mum and dad were staying, my wife and I had a rare opportunity to go for a run.  

The main challenge on the Binsey circuit is the first climb from the road, straight up the eastern side of the fell.  It's definitely runnable.  Today I zig-zagged across the path and dropped back a few times to meet up with Fiona again (yeah, she's a bit slow).  

Once at the top, I was able to tell her about the relative absence of further climbing.  We continued on my usual route, over the farm land of Whittas Park (no right of way but never had problems there) to pick up the footpath over to High Ireby and then back on the roads with a bit of a sting in the tail hill at the end.  

All around 5.5 miles and a lovely evening out.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Cumbria Way Ultra relay

Howard and I receiving our prizes for being the first pair

So my little pretend running club, Hardly AC, which stands for Hardly Any Climbing, put forward a few teams for the Cumbria Way Ultra.  The whole route is about 73 miles.  We put in a team for the five person relay, Kelly, Paul, Ryan, Bobby and Joanne which was roughly 15 miles each.  They came in third out of nine teams.  Howard and I did the two person relay with Howard doing the first 43 miles and me doing the last 30.  We came first out of two teams.

I had said to Howard that I would have preferred to do the first bit, even though it was significantly longer, I thought I would rather do this than run in the dark.  Howard convinced me that we would finish in daylight so I went with his original plan.  After meeting during the week to work out the, not insignificant, logistics of getting all our kit to kit check on Friday night or Saturday morning and then back to the runners in time to start, it seemed like it was going to be a pretty relaxed day.  It was certainly a bit strange not having to get up particularly early.  I think I ended up setting off at about 2.30pm from Keswick after an hour or so waiting nervously.  Howard got a bit behind schedule after experiencing some stomach issues but, as he got close, I got text updates and was ready to go when he came down the street.

waiting nervously with Paul from Derwent AC
I set off quickly, running through the Saturday afternoon Keswick crowds.  At Spooney Green Lane, I walked the steep parts and then made my way steadily up to the car park at Latrigg.  By this stage, I knew I was going to find it difficult.  Not that great as I was about two miles into the thirty odd miles I had to run.

As I headed around the back of Lonscale Fell and reached Skiddaw House, Paul, a runner on the five man team from Derwent AC, came thundering past me.  I turned off to take the North East branch of The Cumbria Way, all the time thinking of the horrible track up along the beck on the way up to High Pike.  I got to the beck and turned left up the track.  I was happy to see it was well marked, I've spent plenty of time here previously, thinking I had found a better route through only to get very wet feet.  I was finding it very hard going and sat down for a bit to have a bit of flapjack for some energy.  As I sat, the eventual second place solo runner, Pete passed me.  I caught up with him towards Lingy Hut and ran into Caldbeck and then about half of the last section with him.  Once he had established that I was not in the solo race, and so not competing with him, we had a really nice chat.

At Caldbeck I drank coke, ate cake and sweets, refilled my water and tried to cool down.  Running with Pete had pushed me on a bit.  He asked if he could run the last bit with me and we set off together but he was going faster than me and I was relieved when he eventually pressed on.

The last bit of the route from Caldbeck is nice enough but it doesn't compare with the fells and trails of the Lake District.  The track traces the outlines of fields and I was relieved to get to Dalston before needing a headtorch.  At Dalston, I changed into a warmer top and then, even though it was flat ground along the cycle track, it really was a slog to the end.

Joanne and Bobby, Hardly AC five person relay team members, were waiting at the end.  This was lucky as Joanne was giving me a lift home.  I had a few drinks, felt a bit sick and then fell asleep in the back of Joanne's car.

I found this event a lot harder than it was.  Maybe I was tired from the St Bega's Ultra a few weeks before or maybe the afternoon start messed up my running.  It was nice to get Hardly AC on the podium and a good group effort.  Well done team.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Walla Crag

From Walla Crag with Skiddaw and Dodd on the other side of Keswick

David on the summit with Derwent Water and the Newlands/Coledale fells behind

another lovely evening

There are lots and lots of trails around here.  It's great for an after worker.  We started at Keswick Theatre and crossed through Castlehead Wood, through Castlerigg and up the grassy slope to the wall where we ran over to the summit.  Beautiful evening light at the summit, we took a few pictures and then headed off towards Ashness Bridge, turning at the wall to pick up the track which forms the last part of the Scafell Trail Marathon.

Monday, September 7, 2015

Bowscale Fell and Bannerdale Crags

Bowscale Fell - beautiful night

Apart from a few easy runs around Cogra Moss, this was my first time on the fells since the St Bega Ultra.  It was a brilliant Monday evening and I was out on my own so a great opportunity to try out a new route.  I've been around Souther Fell quite a bit and had established that the run down from the Mouthswaite Combe area was a great few miles of trails and mud.  I wanted to try a different way up to Bowscale Fell along a grassy track I had spotted on previous runs.

It turned out that the track ends at a building, I think housing water flow machinery and it was a trudge over heather from there.  I took a pretty direct route up to the summit and enjoyed great views at the top.

I then had a nice run around the ridge to climb back up to the summit of Bannerdale Crags before dropping off steeply down the ridge route back to the track along the beck.

if ever a gate invited you through...

Bowscale Fell summit shelter

on Bannerdale Crags summit looking back to Bowscale Fell

the steep ridge back to the valley bottom

route and elevation

Saturday, August 29, 2015

St Bega's Ultra 2015

crossing from Honister to Ennerdale

nervous start
Ah, St Bega! What a great event, what a fantastic day.  I've made so many running friends through this race and had such good times.  Back for my second year and with one eye on getting a decent time.  My running buddies Dean and Jonathan were both out with injuries so I was set to run on my own.  While it would have been great to run with a group, particularly to support Dean to bag his first ultra distance event, the prospect of running my own race excited me.  Last year we ran as a big group, apart from the infamous Stephen Brown nick off.  This was great fun but a little bit of me was frustrated at all the waiting around.  This year, much like the Scafell Marathon, I was confident I could cover the distance and fancied a try at going a bit faster.  My analysis of the 2014 race was that I spent a lot of time waiting for other people, either at the bottom of descents or at aid stations and I should be able to shave off considerable time by not having to wait around and not dawdling through aid stations.

serious business this ultra running
So to the race.  I met a very nervous Joanne, along with other friends, at the start.  We ran up the first hill together and then she told me to go on, wisely holding back her energy at this early stage.  I felt pretty good through the forest and over the fields towards Keswick.  I ran for a bit with David Barker and David Scott.  At this point, I thought I was probably going a bit fast and told the David's that I was not going to keep up with them and that I would hang back.  The run along the side of Derwent Water still felt a bit fast.  I was following two runners who kept surging ahead but then taking wrong turns so I was able to keep level with them.  I was in and out of the aid station at Rosthwaite fairly quick and then took the section up to Honister fairly steadily.  A few people overtook me at this stage.  The climb through the slate mine was expected to be tough and it was but I found it easier than those around me and overtook a few people on this section.  

crossing the high point
The run down to Ennerdale including the steep descent down the gill were both taking in my fell running strengths and I arrived in Ennerdale Valley feeling pretty good.  I overtook a few people along the next stretch to the Low Gillerthwaite aid station, only for one person, who introduced himself as David Logan, Facebook friend (yes lots of Davids) to come into the aid station after me and then leave before me.

The notoriously long Ennerdale Valley section seemed a bit shorter than usual today.  Another person overtaken on the road stage to Dent and then I finally caught up with David Logan on Bummers which again, I was expecting to be very difficult but it wasn't as bad as I thought.  Coming down from Dent and into the last aid station at Cleator, I was feeling pretty tired at this point and took some time to refill my water bottles, text my wife with an ETA and refuel with coke and other goodies.

last descent from Dent, SHUT UP LEGS!
The last four miles were difficult, the last section over the fields by the railway line (my least favourite section) seemed ok and went in quicker than expected.  I was overtaken by one person just as I got off the cycle track and then overtook one right at the very end.

My overall time was 7:40 for 36.5 miles.  About 20 minutes faster than 2014.  I enjoyed it a lot more.  I had struggled more in 2014, partly due to wrong shoe choice (Hokas).  My wife and kids, along with aussie grandparents/in-laws were there at the end.

When I compare with my 2014 time, I think I actually went faster between aid stations last year but spent more time stopped.  It could be that waiting for others allowed me to rest and go faster on the runnable sections?  I'm happy with my time, and despite not taking a massive amount off my time, I do think this years effort was a considerably better performance, but I think I could go a bit faster. Roll on 2016.

"I can see the beer tent"

waving at the family