For those who missed it (where have you been?!) we had a cracking weekend at the Thornley Cross Country fixture – first timer Susan Scott followed me into the funnel, soon joined by Corrine and Emma leading the ladies to first place and promotion to the medium pack for Susan and Corrine.
In the men’s race, Stuart Ord was first home in 10th place, followed by Sam Renwick in his inaugural cross country appearance in 20th, both gaining promotion to the medium pack. Graeme Watt was next home in 27th from the medium pack, gaining promotion to the fast pack – well done Graeme! Completing the men’s team were James Garland (who was promoted to the medium pack), Paul Evans and Matt Archer, leading the men to a strong finish in 2nd place.
We also had a great turnout of 17 women and 27 men! Everybody put out a great performance, Thornley has a reputation for being the toughest course so this just shows that we have some equally hardy runners!
Alnwick is less than 3 weeks away – it is a bit less hilly and a bit more scenic than Thornley, lets get the same turnout and do our best to repeat the performance of the weekend!
Not content with a hilly 6 miles, I would also like to mention for those not on Facebook that Mark Kearney won the Saltburn Hardmoors (bit-more-than-a) marathon!
“Please can we go to Saltburn in February” is a phrase few will say whom are of sound and rational mind and there are many good reasons for that……however as a trail runner and lover of Hardmoors it is a necessity to arrive bright and early on a Sunday morning, at that time of the year and in that very location.
The Half Marathon at Saltburn in 2017 was my first ‘trail’ run and was perhaps the hardest 15 mile I had ever ran. Yes, I had completed Marathons and events in the past, but nothing compared me for the climbs, mud, sleet, hail, rain, snow, wind with the occasional presence of sunshine over a 2-hour period.
Now we fast forward two years and after the mental and physical torture of 2017 we have added multiple Hardmoors experiences to the locker and now think its big and clever to double the distance and take on the marathon series.
Training had gone well, a good result in the HM30 the month before and I felt confident going into the race with some good miles behind me. A recce in the snow the week before had given some knowledge of the elevation and terrain of the back half of the route and on checking the weather forecast no more snow was due; only winds provided by some storm called Eric.
The morning of the race was surprisingly calm, the wind had gone, no rain, no snow, no hail…was this Saltburn? The conditions near perfect weather wise as we parked up and registered for the event. As usual, seamless teamwork from the Hardmoors family as we registered, smiley face for the kit check and we packed our bags in readiness for the race briefing and the call to go outside and toe the line. Walking out we passed Striders Simon Graham and Jill Young, happily saluting us with coffee cups and wishing us good luck…..with the caveat that they are not as crazy as us and are happy to be taking part in the half marathon, due to start at 10am.
We walk outside on mass, traffic stopped, marshalls in place and Jon says we’re off; so we’re off…. down a main road (at least in force so some element of safety) until we hit the track into the dene to drop to the coast. The leader seemingly intent to break away, hitting a fast paced first mile to the coast before the coastal trail path sections and the first flight of steps….slowing us all down as we walk the climb. The course taking the scenic coastal path route, along the cliff tops into the bay and then back up for the climb to the top of Loftus before a fast paced tarmac section. A chance to open the legs after a firm but damp section along the trails. Seeing friends and fellow runners marshalling and exchanging in general banter as we continue on our merry way.
In a true fashion the trails continued to undulate, generally following the bows of yellow tape placed in many part by our very own Dave Toth in the days before. Climbs followed drop, drops and climbs, stairs, steps and hills with few flat and fast sections in between before we start to reach mile 18-19 and the Tees Link up to High Cliff Nab. For those not familiar with this section of Guisborough woods I would encourage you all to have a trip out and take in the elevation and views at the summit, the climb can be challenging in the best of conditions and after the recent snow this climb was the hardest I have experienced in running these events. Unfortunately, the view from the top was one I couldn’t appreciate during the race but looks good on google.
This was the hardest and biggest climb of the race with a long run back through the woods and over to Quakers Causeway before heading down to Boosebeck and climbing to Skelton. The taping of the route and support of the marshals was impeccable throughout the route with fully stocked refreshment points and supportive encouragement throughout. The views, freedom and lack of people and animals on the moors is one of peacefulness; no noise, traffic and only the voice in your head to talk to as you cover the boggy moor landscape. Michelle likes to comment that listening to me have a conversation with myself is her idea of torture; I quite like it as I generally turn out to be right when I’m finished my discussion.
Reaching the other side of Boosebeck enables the Marathon race to join the end of the half marathon route and it was good to see runners again, to be able to say hello and not continually look for yellow tape as I could follow the pack, to target people to try and reach and have a little competition with myself for the final couple of miles. Dropping down the steps I had expected to see Dave Toth at his marshalling point but apparently, he had popped to the shop for refreshments so we continued on back into the dene and the final climb to the main road where the finish line and the leisure centre awaited.
Running into the hall, stopping the watch and desperate for a shower I was happy to end in a time of c3:48 minutes and take first place. Happy the race had gone to plan, pushing on when required and all in better conditions that we could imagined.
I would encourage anyone to take part, try a 10k(ish) if you’re not sure and I would be surprised if even a little bit of you didn’t enjoy the event and people involved.
Round 1 completed, 6 to go……
|pos||bib||Name||Race Time||Pack||Cat||Actual Time|
|1||1258||Stephanie Lawrie (Victoria Park Glasgow)||27:42||S||Fsen||27:42|
|pos||bib||Name||Race Time||Pack||Cat||Actual Time|
|1||1807||Adam Pratt (Morpeth Harriers & AC)||35:21||S||Msen||35:21|
I woke to perfect conditions for this fast race. A 6km jog brought me to the school and a packed but well organised event. I think it’s hit its capacity now. I checked my bib to see what my starting pen was. Dalmation. A dalmation’s quite fast I think. I hope I didn’t put anything too ambitious down for estimated finish time when I entered all those months ago.
I’d expected to be shivering on the start line but the sun was out and there was no wind and all was good. I heard some woofing and off we went. Previously I’ve found it a bit of a crush initially but there was a bit of space and I settled down resisting the temptation to go off too fast. I’d decided not to look at my Garmin until the first kilometre marker.
In a measured race like this I usually go on average pace. My PB for a 10K was 47 minutes from 2012 on the same course. Realistically I’d be happy with a sub-50. A confidence boost that my training was settling down and a useful benchmark.
At the first km I checked my watch. Average pace and actual pace. They were awfully high. I realised I was wearing my old watch and it was calibrated in old money. And I didn’t even have it set to show elapsed time. This was stupendously frustrating and I spent the first half of the race trying to convert 5 min/km in my head to min/mile pace. Not with any success
I felt like I was running ok and didn’t think I had much spare. At the half way point I edged up the pace with the view of running a good negative split. It’s a great spectator course and I’d already spotted Roberta as I’d flown past Elvis. What. A. Voice. And as we got to around 6km I saw her again as I passed under the pier.
I like a good bit of music on a road event and Southport must put the classiest act on that I’ve ever seen in an event. The Rock Choir. The race is worth it for this brief blast alone.
I pushed on and kept winding the pace up. It was a fast day and with 3 km to go I felt I was running it about as hard as I could. My concentration was not what it might be though as I had …
Till I see Marianne walk away
I see my Marianne walkin’ away
… going round and round inside my head. Who sang that?! It took another kilometre before I finally clicked the connection. Boston. More than a Feeling. Sung like I’d never heard it before. Brilliant.
I ran a tight controlled hard race even if it was effectively blind and I was none too pleased to cross the line in 50:14. These 14 seconds stung. It would be easy to think that if I could have seen my pace I might have been able to nip under 50 minutes but I’m not so sure. Great conditions, hard race, good controlled negative split. I realised that I wasn’t really that bothered about the 14 seconds as I’d ran a controlled race. I jogged passed the queues for the buses to the park and ride. Why get the bus when a 6km jog back to base can be all part of the training.
I ran the first Mad Dog 10K 9 years ago and watched it grow to be one of the best races in the country. You have to be pretty quick to get in nowadays. I don’t know if a ballot system is an inevitable consequence of its success. What I really like about it though is the feeling of being part of a local grass-roots race organised by volunteers where so much of the income is donated to small local charities.
Orienteering isn’t everyone’s cup of tea and I hadn’t expected much of a response when I lobbed one of my periodical e-mails onto the list promoting a local event. It just made it all the nicer when first Nigel, Jan and then Shaun and Ros turned up at Cong Burn on a sparkly sunny cold winter’s Wednesday in January. This was an army event so were only three courses on offer and Jan and Nigel were going for the hardest one (Blue) while Shaun was approaching with more caution and opting for the middle course (Light Green). Shaun’s logic being that he didn’t want to end up doing so badly on Blue that he never wanted to do another event again.
I’ve said many times that Orienteering events are surprisingly daunting when you first turn up because they seem a bit complicated and everyone else seems to know what they’re doing. In an army event like today there are also a lot of soldiers with racing vests that often include words like ‘rifles’ and ‘lancers’ somewhere. Which doesn’t help. Even our neighbouring orienteering club Newcastle and Tyneside Orienteers are more often known by their acronym NATO.
Jan was a bit nervous so I suggested just treating it like an interval training session. A bit of fartlek. Which is basically what orienteering is. Speed work where the speed, effort, intensity and duration depends largely on how good you are. The worse you are, the better and longer the workout.
Staggered starts can sometimes make these sociable events surprisingly unsocial. By the time I’d got myself registered, organised and to the start the others had already gone. Shaun had been miffed to discover that you don’t get a look at the map with the course on it until the watch has started. I always advocate sprinting around the first corner, hopefully in the correct direction, in a purposeful manner, then as soon as out of sight of the start, stop and have a proper look. Although nowadays I’m a bit more relaxed and sometimes my starts involve a lot of Not Moving until I’ve had a good at where I’m going and got something approaching a plan.
Conditions were great for orienteering and the ground was crispy and lovely to run on. I’m not ashamed to say I was well chuffed to discover I’d caught Nigel and one of my NN clubmates Bob Cooper around control 6. Mindful of a similar experience with High Cup Nick 10 years ago I didn’t allow myself to get overconfident. Nigel had fluffed up control 3 and lost a lot of time. Orienteering is like that. One bad control and you can haemorrhage time away. When it happens early in a race you have to give yourself a bit of a talking to as it’s easy to lose enthusiasm for the rest of the course.
Nigel, Bob and I were in each other’s radar through to control 8 where things suddenly got interesting:
What would you do? It’s not a long leg, only a couple of hundred metres direct. I’d already forgotten my advice to myself about over-confidence and decided by far the best and quickest way was to drop down to the beck, leap it like a gazelle and a quick lunge north would take me to control 9. I noticed Nigel had decided to stick to the path and take the long way round.
I didn’t see Nigel for the remainder of the course. He remained ahead of me while he gradually got more into the groove and his split times steadily improved. What I did see from my vantage point of knee deep in a disgustingly brown (I hope it was peat) marsh was a slow scrub where Jack Frost had decided not to tread leaving it perfect for energy sapping trudging. Good practice for Allendale I guess.
Although the time lost wasn’t a lot these mistakes tend to dent your confidence and you either compound things by running about in a panic or slow yourself right down and collect your thoughts. Since my legs were wet, cold, and a disturbing shade of brown, and the only things flapping were my shoelaces I decided to notch things back a bit and had a fairly uneventful few controls where I got warmed up again and into the adventure.
Control 13 to 14 brought the next interesting challenge. What would you do?
The temptation is to contour directly along the steep south-east bank or to climb up and run along the road. In my experience with this sort of leg if there’s easy running further away it’s best to take the long-way round. I crossed the bridge and had an easy run along to the bottom of the bank at 14, back across the beck and up to the fence. The fence rather obligingly had a stile and a proper path on the other side so I hopped over and ran alongside the inside where it was easier while looking for the control. It was a good clean leg and I was pleased with myself.
I didn’t notice at the time but the red vertical lines on the map show that this area is clearly out of bounds and I, along with half the army, had taken the inviting path on the OOB side of the fence. In the grand scheme of things it made little difference to my time but I was annoyed at myself for not noticing and had this been a big event and I’d been spotted it would’ve been an automatic DQ. But few people noticed and it’s not as if I’m going to write about it on the internet or anything.
The remainder of the course was reasonably straightforward but the planner had made good use of terrain forcing competitors over a wide variety of challenging terrain and vegetation. I finished and back at download I found Nigel having a cuppa where it soon became apparant Jan and Shaun were still out on the courses.
We walked back out onto the fell and into the sunshine where we could get a commanding view of runners finishing. Like battlefield commanders we surveyed the surroundings and speculated where Jan and Shaun might be. Shaun was first to finish getting doggedly round all the controls. He had been frustrated by his Garmin’s auto-pause feature which interpreted every pause as an opportunity to stop recording so he was a bit unsure how long he’d been out.
Jan kept us guessing but before we got to the ‘should we getting worried’ stage she showed up at the download area. We sent her packing to the Finish which she’d decided to skip, then come back to download. It was largely academic though. Jan had a duff dibber that hadn’t flashed at any of the controls she’d visited. And the controls she had visited had been in an order of her choosing. Of all the tips I thought of offering before the start, visit the controls in order hadn’t been in there. Perhaps I should have though. I had a similar conversation out on the course with Sue and Kerry at the Durham City Night championships in 2015. If your experience of orienteering has all been score events, and no one has told you otherwise, you could be forgiven for thinking that order is optional.
I’m used to being the only Strider at these events so it was lovely afterwards to head down with the Strider platoon to the Tea Barn and investigate the coffee and cakes and indulge in a bit of data analysis. This was an event where there were often varied and quite different route choices between controls. Not necessarily better or worse than each other. But always with consequences.
This event was part of a league of orienteering events run by the British Army Orienteering Club. The Military League North (MLN) have two more fairly local events coming up that are open to civilians. Plessey Woods on Wed 13th Feb, and Warcop (no details yet) on Wed 27th March.
The plan was coming together in early 2018. A friend and I were talking of taking on the Hardmoors Marathon series in 2019 after several 10k and half marathon races in 2017 and 2018. The aims of increasing the distance, the elevation, the number of events over a 12-month period were all challenges we believed we were up for….and as part of the training in advance of the first ‘Chapter’ of the Hardmoors series we thought it would be good to take on the New Years Day Hardmoors 15. 15 I hear you say, but the title says 30…. there must be a mistake, a typo in the report which needs correcting…..alas no. The only error occurred by me failing to log on in time to secure a spot in the 15 being forced to sign up for the 30. The cursor hovering over the payment button longer than usual given this was on New Year Day…..however it was not enough to deter me, we pressed proceed and we were in, booked up for 30 Hardmoors miles.
Generally having a good weekly mileage behind me I was confident I could manage the distance but with little hill work other than races in December I went into Christmas wanting to know what I was getting into. A recci of the route a week before helped me understand the areas I thought I could gain time against the ‘mountain goats’ in the race and have a better understanding of the terrain and stages of the race.
An early morning start as usual for the race with the long drive to Robin Hoods Bay for the 9:30 klaxon. As usual the registration area was already busy, seeing some familiar faces and already feeling the warmth and positivity which these races and the runners seem to have in bucket loads. I collected my number, passed the mandatory kit check (and was asked if I was running with my travelling back pack…scary), packed up the hydration vest and started to go for the warmup and congregation on the starting line.
As the competitors gathered on the starting line around me I often reflect on the why, the what and on the where did all this seem normal. A near 40 year old man, wearing compression tights, a race vest, hydration pack and even packing walking poles and a compass…. On New Years Day in 2000 if I could have saw into the future of 2019 I would have reached for another beer to take the image from my mind.
I knew the route, I had completed the research, first 6-7 miles was along a cinder track to Whitby, through the town and up the steps to the abbey. I new this would be a good stretch for me, solid footing, slight incline but steady pace would have me in a good position I hoped a quarter of the way into the race. As the race started there were 4-5 of us in a pack for the first mile…. steady pace until the lead runner picked up the pace and started to kick out 6:30 min/miles towards Whitby. I responded by increasing slightly but knowing we had 27+ miles to go wasn’t interested in a foot race this early on in proceedings and stuck to a slightly revised version of my plan.
After the climbing of the steps I had opened up a gap behind me to the third placed runner but had no sight of the leader. Thinking he had kept his pace going I kept the best rhythm possible on the contours of the Cleveland Way on the route back to Robin Hoods Bay for the half way check point. The ground and weather to us were kind in equal measure as we ran along the cliff tops, the ground hardened since the previous weeks recci which I was extremely glad of which allowed me to make good time over the first 13 miles.
Back into Robin Hoods Bay check point at mile 13/14, shouted out my number, gave a wave to the marshal, grabbed a handful of jelly babies and off I went. Next stop Ravenscar and Hayburn Wyke for the third quarter of the route. Again I knew this was back on the cinder track, firm footing but a steady climb to Ravenscar before flattening to Hayburn, chance to push on to see if I could see the leader…..all to no avail but knowing I had tried left me confident I shouldn’t have lost time on third place. Here I filled up my water for the first time since the start before the last push back along the coast and the Cleveland Way to Robin Hoods Bay. Taking on more fuel I prepared for the technical part of the race, a series of climbs and descents from cliff top to bay, down stone steps, boggle holes and the like as we raced back to Robin Hoods Bay; wind in our faces as we made our way over the cliff tops and through the tree lined trail.
Running down through the steep descent through Ravenscar to the Alum works, remembering this on the recci and the route to go through the works on the Cleveland Way through to Robin Hoods Bay…. or was it straight past the Alum works? I kept going knowing it shouldn’t be that much of a detour, only to come out and turn around and see third place behind me…. from nowhere. Immediately the pace picked up as I passed multiple tourists walking along the coast for a New Year’s Day stroll, a million ‘excuse me’s’, ‘runner coming through’ and ‘sorry’s’ later I was down at the base of Robin Hoods, no sign of third place…..on reflection given how bad I thought I would smell after the best part of four hours running you would think they would move quicker out of my way. Ill forgive them though due to the breeze and the fresh sea air combined with the previous nights copious amounts of alcohol.
One last push I knew, a sting in the tail, a steep climb on tarmac from the bay to Flyingdales community centre. A push and drive of the legs up to the crest and a turn back to see no one behind me…a chance to relax, gather and refresh the legs before the climbs levelled off allowing a few minutes to find rhythm before the finish line and put on a brave face….. and finally seeing the first placed runner again.
The clue is invariably in the race series title that these will be Hard but the spirit of the organisers, competitors, marshals and supporting families make these fantastic races and extremely popular for all ages and abilities and something I would recommend to anyone.
Overall a great race, great day and great way to start 2019. 4 hours of running, over 2000 foot of climb in a beautiful part of Northern England….and happy to come away with second place.
p.s. it was also great to see Dave Toth picking up his 1000 Hardmoors Mile in the 15 event…impressive if punishing running!
|1||139||4:04:30||Phil Jones (Shropshire Shufflers)||MV40|
The warmth of the village hall was soon forgotten as I headed out the door and into the morning darkness for the start of the Tour de Helvellyn. The weather forecast had been the subject of much debate the previous day on Facebook between the small group of Striders that were due to take part in the race.
. The weather forecast had been the subject of much debate the previous day on Facebook between the small group of Striders that were due to take part in the race.
With Storm Deirdre bringing winds in excess of 60 miles per hour and wind chill down to around minus 10 degrees, the day was certainly looking to be a challenging adventure. Thrown into the mix were freezing rain, a rare occurrence in the UK, and snow for later in the day to further add to the hazards we’d face. The weather brought the dilemma of what kit to start the race in and what to carry in addition. I opted to start out light and add layers as the day went on meaning I’d be carrying a fairly heavy pack.
I arrived at Askham Village hall in good time to register and prepare ahead of the race which I’d decided to start at around 7:30 am. Getting out of the car it was immediate how cold it was going to be and headed straight to the hall to register. Upon entering I happened to notice a small handwritten note which read that the route was to be shortened by around 12 miles, cutting out the loop around Helvellyn due to the weather.
At registration, this was confirmed and although I was slightly disappointed, I was relieved that I wouldn’t be out in the mountains for as long as I’d thought. This also meant I could ditch a small amount of the extra kit I was carrying and lighten up my pack a little. As I did so, Elaine, Geoff and Juliet turned up to register.
Out on the open moor, it was starting to get light as I moved at a steady pace having set off at 7:45 am. The wind was blowing but nowhere near as strong as expected and, despite the initial shock of the cold, I was happy with the number of layers I had on. The first few miles cross Askham Moor are pretty straightforward to navigate. I ran with a girl from Penrith and we chatted as we steadily made our way towards Howtown.
The ground was quite hard underfoot and there was the odd patch of ice but nothing too treacherous. At Howtown there’s a choice of routes you can take to get to the first checkpoint at Martindale Church – either continue straight across the trail and arrive at the back of the church, or cut down past the adventure centre and run up the road to the church. It’s noted that the road is the quicker of the two and is the route I took on my previous running of this race. Today, opted for the trail.
Checking in at Martindale Church, I moved swiftly through to the next section which is a long road run up the valley to the start of Boredale Hause. From here the route climbs to the col which then leads to the village of Patterdale on the other side. The next checkpoint is at Side Farm at the foot of the pass on the edge of Patterdale but you cannot pass through until this opens at 9:30 am so timing your run is vital. This meant that there were a lot of runners on this section as I arrived just after the opening of the checkpoint.
Inside I grabbed a few treats then made off for the next section through Glenridding and up towards our turn around point at Swart Beck Footbridge, just below Sticks Pass. The weather was still ok on this side of the valley but the howl of the wind could be heard and every now and again there’d be a strong gust that would take you by surprise. Still taking my time, I ran into Glenridding and up past the Traveller Rest pub to the Greenside for the start of the steep climb up to Swart Beck. The route climbs steeply here, often the need to use all fours to make progress. It was getting colder and the wind was stronger as I made my way up. For the very short moment I dared lift my head I spotted Elaine making light work of the descent having already been to the checkpoint and turnaround point. The girl is a machine and had passed me somewhere on the route as I knew she’d started after me.
I eventually got to the point where that path levelled off and made my way across to the checkpoint before turning around and making my way back. On the way back I passed Geoff who has been running immensely strong this year and again, I knew had started after me so was making good time. It was now a battle to try and stay ahead of him.
The run back off was taken with caution as the ground was covered in loose rocks. I slipped and pulled a muscle in my left shoulder, nothing serious but was quite painful at the time. Retracing my steps back through Glenridding to Side Farm, I enjoyed the run in the shelter of the valley. I checked in at Side Farm and took a moment to grab a nice hot cup of tea and a biscuit. Rather than wasting time, I set off with my tea (you have to bring your own mug if you want a drink), as I left Geoff came running in, he was closing the gap on me.
I made my way up the steep climb back up to Boredale with my tea which seemed to be retaining its heat a bit too well. The climb was slow and laborious but eventually, I reached the top, stashed my now empty cup and made for the long descent back to Martindale Church. At the foot of the pass, I went to open a farm gate but a gust of wind howled in and trapped me, I had to wait until it eased to get myself free. I ran/walked up the road eventually arriving back at the church. I checked in and decided to head back across the trail rather than take to road route through Howtown.
The wind was picking up and my body temperature was dropping as was my pace. I was feeling really tired all of a sudden and running was becoming difficult. The ground was getting icier heading back to Askham and the tracks were becoming more hazardous. Hopping the tracks and ice was energy sapping and because of this I misjudged a jump and ended up flat on my back. I lay for a bit as I slowly tried to comprehend what I’d just done before trying to get up which was much more difficult than it should have been.
It was now raining but it didn’t seem too heavy. This was freezing rain however and I was now soaked and very cold. With about a mile and a half to go, I decided to just keep moving and get back to the finish as quickly as possible. Eventually, I made it back and was so glad to be warm. Elaine was already relaxing and Geoff was back getting changed. He’d managed to pass my due to route choice at Martindale Church, I’d taken the high road, he’d taken the low.
In all, I’d enjoyed this race but was pretty relieved that it had been shortened – even though it was still a 27-mile race. I made hard work of it as I seem to have with all my races in 2018 but it was a good experience again. The journey home was just as eventfully however as the A66 had been closed meaning a diversion up the M6 and across the A69 was needed to get home.
|1||251||Jim Mann||Durham Fell Runners||M||05:42:46|
|5||126||Katie Kaars Sijpesteijn||North Leeds Fell Runners||1st F||06:16:53|
I was huffing and puffing up a hill at the Gibside Fruit Bowl, in clear pain and feeling knackered, when a mate of mine who was marshalling shouted out “Get on with it!! Running’s easy. Remember its simply about putting one foot in front of the other’.
If only life and running was that simple… and it’s not in my view of the world.
This was brought home to me in the last couple of weeks when I’ve realised that running is definitely not so simple, both in its execution and in the use of all the paraphernalia, which is supposedly designed to make things easier.
Firstly I will cover the gear supposedly designed to make things easier.
In our house of two, we have about 600 pairs of running or outdoor sporting shoes. Ones for road running, ones for the gym, cross country, Outdoor trail shoes for actual trails, outdoor trail shoes for bombing about town, walking boots; and just in case of emergency old pairs of all the above which are kept in the garage. We have not had an emergency yet, but we still keep them.
The point is that to meet our ever-changing running needs each one of these pairs of foot attire represents a greater cost and investment in cumulative design technology than our yearly national contribution to the EU.
For instance, I’m in the market for a pair of new running shoes and I was reading a review in one of the running magazines about one of my preferences. The article had passages like this.
“ A dual density EVA midsole with air units fore and aft provides stability, while a gel heel absorbs shock, but the shoe makes a narrow footprint, a characteristic that typically suits only the biomechanically efficient runner’.
Crikey! I’m not sure if I’m a biometrically efficient runner, but I do know that Neil Armstrong was put on the moon with less science at his disposal.
Having done my research and made my way to the sports shop to buy a pair of runners, the first thing I am asked is ‘ Do you under pronate or overpronate?’
My reply of ‘ Only after 5 pints and a curry’ was not only flippant but also grossly unhelpful and outlined my total ignorance of the complexity of my running needs.
What I should have understood was that the assistant was referring to the natural movement of the foot that occurs during foot landing while running or walking. That this action is composed of three cardinal plane components: subtalar eversion, ankle dorsiflexion, and forefoot abduction, these three distinct motions of the foot occur simultaneously during the pronation phase.
As you can see, it’s dead simple when you are in the know!!
The reality is that the choice of running shoes is seemingly limitless, all scrupulously engineered and biometrically designed to suit all shapes and sizes of runners. Therefore you need the guidance of a shoe guru to keep you right in your purchases, and in my case to keep things simple.
The second aid to simplicity is technology designed not to keep you informed about your training and running, often a great source of entertainment and commonly known as The Garmin, The Fit bit, or simply the running watch.
I just love the write-ups used to entice us into buying these little gems. I read one lately: –
‘The Garmin XT102.5 1S, designed to improve your athletic performance, where knowledge is power, logging your every move and providing a detailed analysis of your bodily functions. Helping you achieve improved super performance, whilst giving continuous readouts during your heart attack, while the Bluetooth connection to your mobile network prompts you to seek medical help when needed,
Technology is great and I love my Garmin, but the hardest part was setting the damn thing up, synching it to my iPad, then linking the data to Strava, which apparently sends prompts to people to like my efforts and give me the thumbs up, or some other gesture as the case may be.
When setting up my device I had to call the Garmin helpline, because I needed to feel totally incompetent by someone much younger than me.
I was stumped by the first question. She needed the serial number.
“Where is it?’ I asked.
‘It’s below the base of the XVS monitor next to the heart rate disequilibrium unit”
I was totally lost and quickly losing the will to live, and showing my complete ignorance of modern technology. Apparently, it was written on the back of the watch, but in letters and numbers so small that I needed a magnifying glass to read it.
My serial number was something like RD1257c6522910976V. Why?….. Never mind…..
Eventually, I got the watch up and running and have great fun with it. I just love the idea of lying perfectly still on the settee and not moving a muscle in order to get my heart rate as low as possible. Or running around a series of football pitches in a vain attempt to write my name using the GPS tracker and mapping function, or running around the village to make a GPS map of every street.
It’s all great fun before you even start to try to analyse all the data that gets recorded. Apparently, I have a great VO2 Max and fall within the top 5% of people for my age group, but when it comes to my FTP (I haven’t a clue what it means) I have moved from Fair to Good with a reading of 2.82, and clearly could do better.
You see, running is supposedly simple, buts its clearly not when it comes to technology. Neither is it in its execution in my view, as highlighted in my recent participation in Orienteering.
Now I’ve done a fair bit or Orienteering over the years, and during the Christmas break, I participated in 2 different events, neither of which proved to be simple.
Firstly to set the scene, I think it’s important to acknowledge that some participants come from a different clan of the running fraternity to the most popular events I usually run in. This is highlighted on arrival at the car park and a look at the cars that regular participants have a preference for. Citroen Berlingo’s, Peugeot Partner’s and Fiat Doblo’s or similar cars of a practical nature and square design are very prevalent, often beige or grey in colour.
Also, regulars run in a style of running kit that is practical for running in or through spikey bushes and dense undergrowth. This encompasses a leg gaiter protector around the lower legs known as bramble bashers, and then loads of very durable running trousers and long sleeved running tops. This gear is not for the fashionistas, and comes usually in the most horrible colour combinations imaginable, and was designed primarily with the Victorian gentleman or lady explorer in mind.
The basic principles of orienteering are that you have a map of the course, a compass, a topographical description of the numbered control points located on the map, and an electronic dibber to record your presence at each checkpoint.
The two basic types of events are: –
1) Score Events
• Competitors visit as many controls as possible within a time limit.
• There is usually a mass start (rather than staggered).
• Controls may have different point values depending on the difficulty to locate.
• There is a point penalty for each minute late over the time limit
• T he competitor with the most points in the fastest time is the winner.
2) Timed Events
• Competitors are given a time slot to start
• All control points are visited in a set order
• The competitor with the fastest time wins
At each race venue, there will be routes of varying difficulty and length to choose from; therefore it’s a good way to lose the whole family if you so wish.
You can do these events on your own, but also you can pair up with a friend or relative to make up a team. If you do these races with your wife, husband or partner, then be prepared to have a really good argument about half way round, usually about navigation and the best way to read a map, or whether to navigate by instinct or compass. You will just have to work out from experience what is the best way for you to compete in the least stressful way.
It should be fairly straight forward to run this event. However, reading the maps takes some getting used to, both in terms of coming to terms with the scale where you may cover the ground quite quickly on the map, and then interpreting what you actually see for it to make sense. For example, the open ground is shaded on the map, whilst woodland is clear and unshaded.
The next difficulty is that each control point is usually cunningly hidden on a topographical feature. Each map usually includes a table listing each control point together with a series of symbols to describe what that feature is and where on this feature the control is located, For example, separate symbols may show the control to be at a flight of steps, at the top, on the eastern side.
The problem is that there are dozens of different symbols to learn and understand, including narrow marsh, a small depression, rentrant, pit, thicket etc. It all gets very complex if you allow it to get to you. My basic approach to this is to just make my way to the vicinity of where I think a control point is, and then run around like a headless chicken until I fall over it.
Again it’s not simple, and this point is emphasised with some of the language used to describe some features. My favourite is a ‘linear thicket’. To most people, this is a hedge, as in ‘I’m going to cut the hedge as it needs trimming’. I certainly don’t say, ‘Today, I’m going to cut my linear thicket’.
This Christmas I completed in two very traditional annual events: –
1) Aykley Heads – Score Event – Boxing day (1 Hour Time Limit)
This was pretty straight forward for me, based on the fact I know the venue very well, I could read the map easily and basically knew all the paths and shortcuts without having to use the compass I did not take with me.
Running on instinct rather than with a plan, the control points were located across the County Hall and Aykley Heads site, covering the ground across to the railway line. Taking a counter-clockwise route, I got to 31 control points out of 35. The only problem was that the proximity reader held on my finger failed to register 5 control points, meaning that there was no record of my visit to those points.
Thus, whilst this was a great run out, and the navigation was relatively straight forward to execute, modern technology failed me and made a simple task very hard.
2) Bolam Lake, Northumberland – Timed Event
We do this every year and it is always a great one to do. The area covered is much smaller than Aykley Heads, but the terrain is much more difficult to navigate. Forget about linear thickets and open ground. Think of dense jungle and lost tribes. The control points are set in sequence across the park, with some points requiring a good long run to cross between, whilst others are much closer together, but well and truly hidden and requiring proper navigation to get to.
Having done this event on many occasions, I know the ground and can read the map; so seeing where to go to get to each control point, in turn, is straight forward. The hard part is that some of the controls are placed in deep marshes in the middle of thick evergreen forest. The purists will dodge off on a compass bearing and measure out the distance to hit perfectly the control point. I will rely on counting out drainage ditches on the map, and then turn off paths to find the control in the forest. At Bolam Lake, I once come across some members of the infamous lost ‘Wherethehellarewe Tribe’, so you can understand how thick the vegetation is.
The reality is this is no 7.30minute mile pace race. It’s more like wandering around in circles, jumping across ditches, falling into ditches, in search of control points, at 15-minute mile pace. This point is emphasised on my Garmin tracker, which records my taken route that seems to wonder like a lost spider across the screen.
Its tough, and it can be dangerous, and as I tried to run through an evergreen tree to make it to a known path I virtually impaled my left hip on a broken low hanging branch. Completing a self assessment triage, I established that although I had drawn blood, I didn’t need an immediate medical rescue and evacuation by the Great North Air Ambulance Service, and so I was able to continue and make it to the end in a reasonable time placing me in the middle of the field (Note – not the middle of A FIELD, but THE FIELD, my navigation is not that bad).
Finally, running, in theory, can be very simple and should be about putting one foot in front of the other. The reality is that equipment; technology and races such as orienteering events can be very complex and at times incomprehensible. However such complexity simply gives added value and infinite variety to the sport we love.
Cat: there’s no way this one’s getting into the FRA calendar
Reviewing my running in 2018 in November was, on the whole, a satisfactory experience: decent weekly mileage? Check, with only a few slack weeks due to injury or work. Getting some worthwhile XC and cat A/B fell races in? Check, with a handful I’d never done before slipped in. Knocking a bit of time off previous PBs on a couple of races? Check once more. The only real holes in what was otherwise a good year were the failure to get across to any of the Lakeland Classics and the 2x ultra, Did Not Starts, the former (Calderdale Hike) due to a bout of man-flu that hit me the evening before and saw me find out what a temperature of c40c feels like (not great, would not recommend), the latter (Bradwell) as a result of a shift over-running to the point that I’d not left work by the time my train pulled out of Central Station. As a consequence, whilst on a bit of a high after taking 6 minutes off my Pendle PB, I looked at the ultra calendar for something, anything, that I could knock off early in the year to get some big miles in my legs. This essentially boiled down to a choice of two southern ultras, the Peddar’s Way in Norfolk and the Country to Capital Ultra, the latter eventually chosen as it was easier to get to and less likely to be snowed-off in the event of a ‘Beast from the East’ reprise. Once booked, I did the logical thing and promptly returned to training by both running up and down hills, and doing some road-based interval work, managing to rack up a single run in the intervening period of 20 miles (I think), but definitely getting faster over middle-distance – a core ultra skill.
Funnily enough given the above, I was not 100% confident when 12 Jan 19 came around that I had the necessary miles in my legs, and upon getting to Wendover early on the Saturday morning, had distinctly mixed feelings about what was about to transpire, repeating to myself the mantra ‘be like Anna (Seeley, the only ultra-runner I know who makes it look easy),’ as this was the only way I could see myself finishing – set a pace, stick to it, don’t think about going too fast etc; essentially, run metronomically for hour after hour after hour. Oh, and stop and take whatever food and drink is on offer, whenever it is on offer. With this plan, I registered, collected my EMIT tag and number, dropped my bag at the van that would take it to the finish, used the portable loos repeatedly and then set off in the middle of the 2-300 runners down Wendover High Street hoping to get to Paddington in around 7 hours or a little less.
The first mile was easy, and essentially a tour of a fairly pretty market/commuter town before mile 2 saw us hit the first, and biggest hill of the course, a pleasant walk up a wooded track, which would have been very runnable were it not for the facts that a) everyone else was walking and I was stuck b) there was still a VERY long way to go. We got to the top and I started running again, keeping a pace of 8:20 – 8:50 min/miles dependent upon terrain (largely wooded/farmland and rather pleasant), with a brief dip sub-8 on a nice long road descent, and hit CP1 at Chesham, 7.7m in for water, a bit of cake and the knowledge that the leader had gone through in around 53 minutes; I was impressed, though the occupants of this outpost of Betjeman’s Metroland appeared less-so, carrying on normal Saturday morning life as a stream of runners trickled through their town centre, through a nature reserve and past youth football training, en route to CP2, Horn Hill, 17.3 miles in and again, most of it nice-if-unremarkable green countryside with the occasional village to break up the greenery.
After leaving CP2 it was straight downhill through more fields to the M25, which I must confess to feeling slightly awed by, running high over it on a bridge that appears used largely by animals and tractors (judging by the underfoot matter) and feeling viscerally the speed and relentless roar of the many lanes of constant traffic underneath.
Straight after crossing I actually had to apply my brain a little, as several of us became temporarily confused by the correct route out of Maple Cross, eventually finding our way down to the A41, which we hand-railed for the next mile. This loose agglomeration of half a dozen of us was to last for a few miles, taking us off the main road and up a steep wooded embankment to skirt Denham aerodrome and cross a golf course, thankfully both holes crossed having people putting rather than giving it their all with their drivers. Into Denham itself, the railway station served as a convenient landmark (we had to run under it) as well as the halfway point and, also, a marker that the fun was nearly over. One of our remaining trio (two had dropped away and one other had picked up his pace) had reconnoitred the second half of the route, running from Paddington to Denham and taking the train back, and simply said ‘welcome to the Grand Union Canal, in its’ bleak majesty. It all looks a bit like this from now on.’ He was not wrong.
Before things became truly unpleasant there were highlights, however: CP3 was only a further 4-5 miles in, marking marathon distance (3:46hrs) and being equipped with water, mini-sausages and mini-beef-and-veg pasties, which hit the spot very nicely as I walked away (again, figuring that losing a bit of time was better than accidentally inhaling pastry and provoking a coughing/vomiting fit – it has been known).
Food taken, I trotted on, solo now for the rest of the race as my companions were looking to run in at 9-9:30 min/miles from here, whereas I was still feeling comfortable at c.8:30 or so and knew I had one more piece of navigation to accomplish, this being taking the Paddington canal branch at a white bridge 3 miles on, with a sign pointing and saying ‘Paddington’ on it. Backing myself to manage this, I followed the water, occasionally changing sides as the towpath switched at locks, urban London starting to intrude more as the greenery beside the canal became dotted with fly-tipping and the quiet of the countryside was disturbed by the hum of concrete plants, distribution warehouses, rakes of freight wagons on lines running parallel and over and then, finally, commuter and tube trains announcing we were definitely in the capital. Having passed through Southall, the highlight being a bouncy floating bridge carrying the towpath past a building site, CP4 came at 33 miles, then was followed a mere 4 miles later by CP5, the organisers bunching them closer to allow for the fact that later runners would be finishing in the dark, paired after 1500hrs. I was still at a pace that felt comfortable breathing-wise through both, but was starting to slow slightly after CP5 and both feet were beginning to get rather sore; if honest, whilst the backs of factories and warehouses are of interest in some ways, this was not the scenery I’m used to and the lack of reason to change pace or watch my foot placement was strangely hypnotic, the daydreams being disturbed only by occasional cheers from passers-by, the smell of skunk at fairly regular intervals and the odd grunted hello to a competitor as I ground past them. Truthfully, even a day later I can’t remember how many people I overtook in the last 10 miles of the race, but it was a handful and all appeared to be suffering a little, with just finishing clearly being the aim. Again, all I tried to do was maintain rhythm and pace, step-by-step, mile by mile, and the repression of my earlier instincts to run faster made this possible.
Finally, Little Venice arrived, the finish being hidden from view until 20 yards away by a bridge, and all the more wonderful for the surprise. EMIT handed in, confirmed that I’d managed 6:22, and was apparently 22nd overall, the winner having managed sub-5hrs. After that, tea, water, reclaim baggage and stroll to the tube with a couple of other finishers, doubtless smelling a bit ripe, before a quick wash in a pub toilet prior to getting the train back north.
Thoughts? Good event, though even stripping out the fatigue effect, the first half is much nicer running than the second. Well-organised, the pleasant-seeming organisers being ex-military, which is always a plus, and serious runners themselves, with the CPs being spaced sensibly and the cut-offs neither too tight nor too likely to lead to disaster.
Overall, despite this being some distance outside my comfort zone for pace, terrain or distance, I enjoyed this more than I expected. Indeed, I’d even recommend it to Anna, whose way of doing business essentially got me around, next time she wants some long-distance, canal-based fun.