VALLEY STRIDERS SUMMER READING 2014
Reports in alphabetical order of event. Get out your deck chair, put on your sun-cream and hat, make an iced drink and settle down to read (or if you’re holidaying in the UK, sit inside, make a cup of tea, and read this while you wait for the rain to stop)…
· Coast to Coast Cycle Ride (reports collected by Ged Coll) (from Steve Wilkins, Dan Price and Mick Tinker)
Friday 27th June 2014
6 months of training and planning had gone into this but I had been thinking of attempting this for the last 5 years. I had a good build up in terms of training, doing some great races and recce’ing the route several times with all my helpers. Including doing the entire route over three days, which was the toughest thing I had ever done up to that date. I think Christine and the kids are used to daddy just going on one of his long runs but I had tried to keep the impact on my family life as little as possible.
On the day I had eleven people helping me out at various points, there has to be someone there verifying that you have successfully reached each summit. Christine (my wife) drove the support vehicle, not an easy task when you have to be awake for the whole 24hrs! Actually this is quite a stressful job.
I drove up to the lakes on June 27th Friday morning and sat in a cafe in Threlkeld having a coffee and a piece of cake with a stunning view over Clough Head but feeling a tad concerned as it was 18 degrees and bone dry. Water could really be a problem. I had slept well and never really got nervous, I knew what was expected and that I would be in pain at some point and felt well prepared. Disaster struck when Mark Robinson my helper for Leg 4 rang to let me know he was too ill to make it. Fortunately I had Ann and John ready for leg 4 who would have to cope, I couldn’t cancel now.
I set off with Rob Spree (work colleague) my first helper at 6pm from the Moot hall along with another lady making an attempt on the same day at the same time. Jenkin Hill is never a fun climb in my book, I'm better at descending than climbing but we were in good spirits. Rob prompted me to eat every 30 mins in order to keep my blood sugar levels constant and everything seemed to pass by quickly. The lady I had set off with was a couple of hundred metres behind and dropping further as we moved along.
I arrived at checkpoint 1, 29 mins ahead of schedule for 7 mins of planned rest and made two mistakes, one was wolfing down a Pot Noodle, something I would see again later! The second was leaving my head torch for leg 2 through the night! Fortunately Richard Knell-Moore (LBT) who arrived at the checkpoint with 5 mins to spare had a spare kid’s torch with him which did a fine job. It was pitch black over Helvellyn and the Dodds, no moon light at all and the cloud came down making navigation difficult. Fortunately we had an expert Navigator on leg 2 in Catriona Purdy (Abbey Runners) who did a fine job.
Arriving at check point 2 for leg 3, I was definitely feeling a bit tired but going well, however not looking forward to climbing up Steel Fell, a steep climb up from Dunmail Raise. However this seemed to pass quickly with my new help in the form of Mick Loftus (VS) and Richard Wigley (orchestra conductor(!)). The conversation from me was dropping for sure; I was really just trying to focus where I was putting my feet. A minor bit of confusion here by me caused us to lose a bit of time, I was sure we shouldn't be going downhill; it just shows you how easy it is to forget! Anyway we reached Broadstand and I had a big smile on my face as I met my two climber friends Mick Would and Rob Rushworth. They had camped up Scafell overnight ready to rig up the climb onto Broadstand. Mick went on ahead through 'Fat Mans Agony' and climbed the 'Crux' leading the way for Richard and I to follow. We reached the summit of Scafell and continued on the long descent into Wasdale. It was at this point I became very aware of my two big toes. They were very painful which would slow me down on all the descents from now on.
For Leg 4 I met John Marsham (VS) and Ann Kohler (VS), two very experienced fell runners who were to carry me through the leg that could either break or make me. Yewbarrow or 'Yewb*st*rd' as it is more aptly named merges into Red Pike for one hell of a climb out of Wasdale up to the Mosedale horseshoe. Ahead of me I could see a team that had set off an hour in front of me from Keswick and it wasn't long before I caught them up on the turn at Steeple. The long descent from Pillar allowed me to pass 'Ian', which gave me a boost, but I was very conscious that it wouldn't be the sort of boost he needed! It did not seem to have a bad effect however as he caught me on my arrival into Honister! It was on the descent from Pillar that I made a new friend ‘Adnan’, I had no idea who he was when he shouted out my name ‘Go Simon’, apparently he is a friend of Mark Robinson’s and had heard about my attempt via facebook and had put two and two together.
Here I met Duncan Reed (Pudsey Pacers) for the last stretch of 11 miles and three summits into Keswick. Mick and Rob arrived with their Mountain bikes to follow me in as well. At this point I was 14 minutes up on my planned time which meant I had a 40 minute cushion to get to the finish (My attempt time was planned as 23 hrs 34 mins). I was very confident of making it. Ian took the lead here and the last I saw of him was at the bottom of Robinson a good half a km in front me at the start of the Road. He had just 1 hour to make it back to Keswick before his time ran out. He did it with two minutes to spare!
I arrived in Keswick not having worn my rain jacket all day! I managed a sprint up past the busy market to touch the Moot Hall steps in a finish time of 23 hrs 24 mins. It all felt a bit surreal really, I had achieved an ambition which I had built up for a good five years so felt a real weight lifted from my shoulders. I felt like a celebrity when several strangers shook my hand along with my new friend Adnan who had waited to see me in. In true Wallace and Gromit fashion it was a Grand Day Out ;-)
The lady who I left with unfortunately did not make it. She lost a lot of time on leg 2 in the dark and cloud that descended on us and I believe she gave up at the end of leg four having run out of time.
Some Interesting facts:
The distance I took was 72 miles.
I climbed 27,000 feet (almost Everest!)
I climbed England’s Highest Mountain, Scafell Pike, along with all of the top 10 and a lot of the top 40 highest peaks.
I didn’t sleep for over 38 hrs.
One of my helpers fell ill the same day and did not make it unfortunately.
One of my helpers had already completed the round.
One of my helpers flew in from the States the day before!
Another of my helpers travelled up from South Wales the same day!
Another of my helpers moved house the same day!!!!
I wouldn’t have achieved any of this without the commitment of all my helpers.
The Bob Graham is 42 peaks and somewhere between 63 and 74 miles with between 26,000 ft and 28,500 ft of climbing depending on where you look, either way it is very long and very hard and it is to be completed in under 24 hours ideally. The route is split into 5 legs and runners typically have supporters on each section to carry the gear, food and drink.
I was due to support on leg 3 from Dunmail Raise to Wasdale, a 15 mile jaunt through the heart of the Lakeland fells including Scafell Pike with over 6,000 ft of ascent. Simon set off from Keswick at 18:00 on Friday night. I travelled to Threlkeld to see Simon go through the first pit stop at the end of leg 1. He was ahead of schedule, which caused a little confusion with the support crew. I had to chase after Simon as he started leg 2 to pass on some forgotten kit.
At around 22:00 I headed off to Dunmail Raise to park in a layby and try to get a little sleep. At 01:30 we moved up to the changeover point. This was a busy little area with two other support teams waiting for their runners. We checked kit in the dark, there was little wind with slight cloud cover. We felt a little chilled in the night air.
Then we spotted lights on the fellside above. Simon and two supporters were coming in on time. The radio crackled some mumbled instructions from Simon as he descended. I felt a little nervous considering the pitch black hill to be climbed behind us and the need to get everything right. The team arrived and Simon dropped into a chair all smiles. They had had a little navigation issue in the mist and had lost a few minutes but they were still 20 minutes up on Simon's schedule.
His short rest time was soon up and we set off. It is a stiff climb from Dunmail up to the first hill, Steel Fell. We had our head torches on and I soon warmed up. Simon having had an 8 hour warm up!
With the first hill out of the way we began running in earnest. Once our eyes had adjusted I realised that the night wasn't very dark. My head torch probably needed new batteries (I did have spares!) but I didn't really need it much. Simon and his other supporter Richard knew this section like the back of their hands and ran confidently from memory, with a little help from Garmin.
The pace was steady but relentless, I had expected it to be slower. After about an hour the head torches became unnecessary as a beautiful dawn began. By the time we reached the Langdale Pikes area between 04:00 - 05:00 it felt like we had the fells to ourselves. In fact we did not meet a single walker or runner the whole way although we saw some in the distance later.
We fed Simon every 30 minutes or so and kept him drinking. He was moving smoothly and most importantly we kept exactly on schedule with the occasional minute gained or lost between peaks.
The next big challenge on the route was the climb of Bowfell from Angle Tarn. We followed the almost indiscernible 'Billy Bland's Rake' diagonally up through rocky ramps gradually higher. We topped out onto the ridge near to the summit of Bowfell. The next section, practically all the way to Scafell is very rocky, taking in Esk Pike then via Esk Hause to Great End, Ill Crag and Broad Crag.
The visibility up to now had been perfect but as we approached Great End the mist descended. This area is a rock wilderness. We reached the summit but then Simon's Garmin inexplicably pointed in the opposite direction to Richard's and my compass. The rocky slopes around us didn't fall in the right direction at least for the short distance we could see. After a little debate and confusion we went with the majority of the navigation aids and then at the same moment a break in the clouds confirmed the direction with Scafell Pike looming nearby. We pressed on to Ill Crag, looking back Great End was soon completely clear and it was hard to understand our confusion.
The rocky ground continued up to the summit of Scafell Pike, the high point of the Bob Graham Round. Simon was climbing strongly and was still ahead of schedule although we had lost a few minutes in confusion on Great End.
The traverse from Scafell Pike to Scafell is a famous problem. The two peaks are close in height and close together but are difficult to travel between. Simon had arranged for a couple of friends to fix a rope up 'Broad Stand'. This is the direct shortest route between the two which involves one very small but exposed climbing manoeuvre. This arrangement worked perfectly. I ran ahead a little and was secured in a harness and climbing before Simon arrived. He quickly followed behind me and we pushed on to the top with Richard chasing behind. We were soon on the summit of Scafell and then headed down on the big descent to Wasdale.
Simon kept pushing hard all the way and was still over 10 minutes ahead of schedule by the end of the leg.
I was then able to relax now but Simon was only just over half way through. We met John and Ann, his next support team. After a 10 minute break they set off up the killer climb of Yewbarrow, otherwise known as 'You-b*st*rd!'
Simon went onto complete the round in 23 hours and 24 minutes, an outstanding achievement.
Simon becomes the fourth Strider to complete the Bob Graham Round
· John Marsham completed it last year (his report is at http://valleystriders.org.uk/up130810.htm )
· Mike Nelson completed it in 2006 (he wasn’t a Strider at the time, and is 2nd claim with us now)
· Martyn Hopson completed it in 1987. He did with Frank Wilkinson – many of you will recognise that name from his “Walking with Wilkinson” weekly column in the Yorkshire Evening Post. Martyn was also an excellent runner on the road – he won the Leeds Marathon and had a marathon PB of 2:25 but has now retired from running
· 1,848 people had completed the BG Round by the end of 2013 (compare this with 3,142 who had been to the top of Everest by 2010)
· For more details of the Bob Graham club see http://www.bobgrahamclub.org.uk/
Finally to mention that Simon is type 1 diabetic which adds to the “challenge” (as he puts it). Simon has a Just Giving page for Diabetes UK https://www.justgiving.com/Simon-Redshaw2/ and I’m sure more donations would be welcome!
Here are three C2C reports. One for each of the groups on the road. It would be great if you could squeeze these into one of your upcoming VS updates.
Steve Wilkins – A
After sneaking four hours sleeps in the noisiest dormitory I have ever been in (bunk beds and weak bladders are not a great combo!) I was glad to start (up at 0430!) our 150 mile challenge to get from Seascale to Whitby in a day, taking in every possible climb the organisers could find!
After dipping the front wheel in the sea, we set off to tackle the first climb of the day, the impressive Hardknott Pass with scary 30 percent gradients! Whilst descending we came across a fellow C2C’R who had crashed and was airlifted to Hospital (stark reminder on just how tough the route was and how valuable the air ambulances are).
The day passed fairly smoothly racing through some stunning countryside, with backing vocals being provided by Andy and Dan (makes the legs go round faster trying to drown out the noise!) and the usual banter mainly focused around the self- tan, I had apparently dunked my legs in.
A scary moment just outside Hawes when Jon and Tony came crashing down (a few gravel rashes but both bikes okay) did little to dampen our spirits, with the group passing on hazard warnings in a strange Scottish accent?
A huge effort (especially from the support crew who had also been on the go all day) saw our group complete the challenge in just over 9 hours riding time, 11 ½ hours in total (had to wait at the last few feeds for Jason to charge his phone!).
Finishing in the Whitby sunshine with all the ten riders we started with, was a great achievement and we even managed to entertain the locals at night (a group of non-smoking cyclists googling how to smoke a celebratory cigar? a rare site indeed).
Dan Price – B
After our relatively short time as Valley Striders CC members and our very last minute decision to take part in the Coast to Coast, neither my wife Alison or I really knew how we were going to cope with the 150 miles that we’d have to cover between Seascale and Whitby to complete the ‘Coast to Coast in a Day’ Sportive.
It certainly proved to be the longest and most challenging ride that I’ve ever done, but the teamwork, encouragement and support from VSCC and the group that we rode with made sure that the event was also one of the most enjoyable and memorable days I’ve spent on a bike.
The advance organisation and planning by the VSCC team was fantastic and included great choices of accommodation, transport arrangements and a great dedicated support team on hand throughout.
Mick Tinker – C
The VSCC C2C-in-a-day group C didn't exist for the first 40 miles of the ride, as we started out with just an A and a B group, but it became obvious after a few hours riding that 3 of us from the B group were slower than the rest and it was only fair to drop off into a C group.
Two of us had had slow ascents of the Hardknott and Wrynose passes and the other had slow descents. For my own part, I stalled on the initial steep ramp onto Hardknott, failed to unclip from the pedals and toppled gently into the ferns at the side of the road. No harm done but a bit of pushing was required followed by some riding and a bit more pushing. Wrynose was nowhere near as bad but required a short push part way up. Respect to all the other VSCC riders who got up without dismounting (or falling off!).
After the C group formation, the three of us (2 Pauls and Mick) tried to work together to share the work, which worked fine on the flats and certainly helped, as the wind (albeit light) was everywhere but behind. The mainly quiet roads and fantastic scenery certainly kept me going, along with the great laid-on food stops where we always met up with our brilliant support team.
After 14 hours a glimpse of the North Sea was a very welcome sight and as dusk began to fall it was time to switch on the lights for the final downhill run into Whitby.
As we rolled into the finish area, the support team were again there to greet us, as along with my wife Lynda and our neighbours, who were there to share an apartment with us in Whitby for the week. But to my surprise, my wife had also arranged for 2 of my sons to be there for the weekend too, so a great end to an epic day.
After photos and farewells to my team mates, it was back for a bath, more pasta and a bottle of beer before turning in for a good night's sleep (certainly when compared to the previous night in a 15 man dorm at the Wast Water YHA!).
All in all a great event with fantastic organisation and support by my VSCC colleagues - but I will be back when I've got a lighter bike with some lower gears so that I can get up those hills ON the bike.
21 Valley Striders riders started and 21 Valley Striders riders completed the route. They were Alison Price, Andy Stoneman, Bill McCaffrey, Dan Murray, Dan Price, Ged Coll, James Tarran, Jason Procter, John Shanks, Jon Pownall, Mick Tinker, Mike Furby, Paul Felton, Paul Sanderson, Richard Adcock, Richard Pollard, Shaun Cust, Steve Wilkins, Tony Mills, Victoria Whitehead and William Sims.
The support team was Becky Murray, Gillian Felton and Richard Clough.
They were also doing this to raise money for the Yorkshire Air Ambulance Service (a Valley Striders supported charity) who need every penny to keep their two helicopters in the air. They have exceeded their target of £2,000 but I’m sure further donations would be welcomed at http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/team/VSCC .
I had another tilt at those foreign chaps again in the E U sprint tri champs last Friday in Kitzbuhel Austria: Some of them are awfully good! Again I lined up in reasonable shape but the swim was into the water and GO! I need a few minutes to get accustomed so the chest seized up and I thought I was not going to be able to continue. Relaxed a bit and breast stroked for a while and eventually got the motor going. The floundering cost me a good four minutes but I did not exit the water last.
The rain had started to lash down for the bike leg and at the mount point I realised I had not put on my number. To go back or risk penalty or DQ? I reckoned the referees would have their heads down in the deluge and not notice a missing number and I could put it on for the run and finish, so I pressed on (made the right choice!). Was having a storming bike ride on the flats and surprisingly up the winding alpine slopes (very very steep and the effort was chest-bursting) till I missed a gear change (levers on the TT bars) and the wheel locked up and I had to dismount! The slope was too steep to remount and get moving so I had to run (yeh right!) up the mountain till I got to a flat bit and mount up again. Another four minutes gone! I managed to pass everyone who had overtaken me but had lost touch with an English guy whose scalp I was after (next time!). The descent was manic with a warning sign and men waving flags at every hairpin. I managed to rocket past a load of more nervous riders although had to hit the brakes at most sharp bends. ( A number of riders came a cropper).
On to the run leg and (complete with number) I still had some zip in my legs so pulled back a number of my peers on the undulating route round the lake. There was a long flat drag back to the finish and in the distance was a German who I thought I could overhaul. I got up on my toes to the cheers of ‘Come on GB’ and got up quite a head of steam. The cheers alerted the German about 300 yards from the finish and he looked round and started to sprint. ‘Come on GB you can do it’ helped me find overdrive and I passed not only the one I was chasing but another one who was taking the cheers from the supporters. Two Germans for the price of one and a finish position of 16th out of 27 in the age group. Lost time forgotten and a satisfying conclusion.
Looking forward to lining up after the requisite amount of training and a hiccup free race, if such a thing is possible, to break into the top ten and above!
The SLMM 2014 was on the Helvellyn range this year. There were a couple of Strider's family teams competing, Alun Davies and his son, and my son Ronan and I. We went for the Kirkfell Class which is the second longest team event and the Davies entered the Carrock Fell.
One hour into the event we found ourselves sweltering on a very steep climb to 'Hole-in-the-Wall', a well-known spot on the route up to Striding edge. We weren't climbing the well graded tourist path up, however, we were slogging up the steep flank of the hill. The weather was beautiful, for sitting next to a mountain stream or for sunbathing perhaps, for us it was just hot.
We ran as hard as we could sustainably but there were long stretches of contouring or gradual climbs over tussocky ground. This was particularly energy sapping and demoralising. The hours passed and we realised that we would be out on the hill for a lot longer than the year before in the same event and class. We consoled ourselves with the knowledge that other teams were not streaming past us so we must be holding our own.
At around 5 hours we were faced with the choice of re-climbing Helvellyn (almost) to the top on good paths or performing a two mile traversing contour over uncertain ground. Our battered feet persuaded us to go for the climb and descent. Even with this leg completed there was still more contouring until at last we were able to descend to the finish.
The overnight camp turned out to be about half a mile from where I had waited in the middle of the night for Simon on this Bob Graham Round a couple of weeks before.
Day One had taken us 5:50 and it had felt a long day but it turned out to be a much longer day for others as we ended up in 5th place. The last team to finish took 09:42 in 67th place. The late finishing teams also had to contend with deteriorating weather. The hot sun of the morning had turned to persistent rain by late afternoon. We were sheltered in our tent and had eaten before it started. We passed a rainy but still night comfortably and the rain conveniently fizzled out before the day 2 start.
Day 2 suited us better with little contouring over rough ground but lots of straight up and down with good runnable ground in between. We visited the Helvellyn ridge again and the steep sided St Sunday’s Crag. We plunged down from the latter using a 'seated glissade' manoeuvre on precipitous wet grass (rather than the more orthodox snow or ice), also known as 'a*s*-ading', also known as falling on your bum and sliding down the hill. Using this method to descend in a safe and controlled manner (with health and safety risk assessment duly completed) with gained several minutes on some of our competitor teams who were descending the slope with excessive (or sensible) caution.
All the controls appeared more or less where we expected them and we pushed on with fewer and fewer teams around us. The final descent was a rocky quadriceps quivering plunge until we finally emerged into the finish area. Our day 2 effort had lasted 4:42 resulting in a pleasing 3rd place on the day. The prize for this was a detailed kit check through everything we were carrying, including proving that we were carrying our rubbish.
We hadn't done quite enough to get into the top three overall but we were delighted with 4th place out of 75 teams starting and 55 completing the course.
Nice one Mick, and big congrats to you and Ronan for a seriously good result in a challenging class.
We found it tough this year – definitely the hardest Saunders Saturday I’ve done, and not just because I’m unfit. 1600m of climbing on really hard, steep terrain: in reality it was probably more like 2000m as like you and Ronan we couldn’t face that long traverse on the steep side of Helvellyn and chose the up and over option for the last couple of controls. We also got caught in the rain over the top which was not pleasant. 8.5 hours. I was so knackered I didn’t even have the energy to blow up my balloon bed.
Sunday was easier but I was still hammered from Saturday and struggled to keep food and drink down which didn’t help. 5 hours.
Ended up 81st out of 125 teams. At least we finished – 27 didn’t. Luckily Elliot was very patient with his old man and dragged me round J. Great event nonetheless, a really enjoyable atmosphere and the Lakes was as spectacular as ever.
Three weeks ago Ross Bibby and I ran the Scafell Trail Marathon which starts and finishes in Keswick with the half way point being the top of Scafell Pike which makes it the highest marathon in England. Ross had run the marathon in 2013 when the weather was pretty bad and the majority of the field had gone the wrong way. My navigational skills aren’t the best so Ross, John Batch (as part of his training for Mont Blanc) and I travelled over to Keswick a couple of weeks prior to the race to recce part of the route. The weather was brilliant that weekend, hot, sunny and clear skies with only a bit of mist on top of Scafell. I don’t always like to recce race routes as part of the race for me is about the element of surprise and discovering new routes. However, after the very rocky descent off Scafell and into Seathwaite the terrain gets a lot easier and faster. I knew that if I didn’t blow up on race day then I could make up a lot of time on the last section back to Keswick.
Fast forward two weeks and the weather was still very hot but the forecast on top of Scafell wasn’t so good. The first 6 miles or so is very easy trail running, nothing too technical with amazing views of the lake and the hills in front of you. It was very hot though and I was glad when we started running up hill as it started to cool down. Ross and I were running pretty close to each other at this point although I was always slightly in front until we hit the rougher mountain terrain and he took off…I must admit I slightly cursed him as I realised I wouldn’t catch him going up Scafell where I had been hoping to follow him through the mist!
We reached the ‘Stretcher Box’ which is the start of the big climb up Scafell although I couldn’t see anything in front of me at this point. Considering the field had spread out from the start I was lucky in that I always seemed to be in a little group of other runners. I don’t think we picked the best line heading on to Scafell but it probably only cost us a couple of minutes. I knew I was leading female at this point and couldn’t see anyone in front of me so I just relaxed and grinded my way up Scafell. Not far from the top though I turned around to see another female catching me and before I knew it we were level with about 15 metres to go to the top…..any other race I wouldn’t have bothered but there was a prize for first male and female to the top of Scafell. Suddenly we were both sprinting to the top of Scafell (not what I had planned…) – I thought there is no way I am going to lose out on this now, I literally beat her to the top by a few seconds and dibbed first…managing to secure the ‘Queen of the Mountain’ prize! It certainly woke me up and made me go faster for the rest of the marathon…
Coming off Scafell is tricky, it is very rocky but navigation is also a problem. Once again I was lucky as I followed a guy with a ‘yellow Keswick’ running vest who seemed to know the area quite well! I followed him all the way down to the bottom of Scafell until he stopped with cramp….I felt bad for him but kept going back to the Stretcher Box and continued on the rocky descent back to Seathwaite.
It was nice to get off the mountain section and see Ian and Becky waiting to cheer us on. I asked the marshall for some coke but he said we drank it on the way up! I kept going to the next junction to see Ian and Becky again and this time Ian had run into the hostel and bought me a half pint of ‘coke’ which I downed easily (I had trained for this moment with a half pint of beer at a previous race…). I kept pushing on not knowing how far behind Sally Ozanne was and although Becky told me Ross was only a couple of minutes in front as I couldn’t see him I didn’t think I would ever catch him. The next section really suited me as the terrain wasn’t so rocky and apart from one climb the running was fast although undulating. It was nice to get to a road section with a view of the lake which I recognised from our recce as I knew we were nearly back….there was quite a fast downhill section on the road before it hill the trails again and then on the lakeside with about half a mile to go to the end. I kept pushing and before I knew it I saw Ross ahead of me….I caught up with him and muttered something to him about getting this thing finished with and I was also about to say let’s finish together but
1. I didn’t know how far behind Sally was so wanted to keep pushing and
2. My competitive instinct took over….
I finally crossed the finish line, first female in 5 hours 6 minutes 13 seconds (14th overall) and new course record with Ross finishing in 5 hours 7 minutes 4 seconds - 15th overall and knocking off 1 hour 5 minutes from his time last year!. Ricky Lightfoot was expected to win overall but unfortunately had gone slightly wrong with his navigation on Scafell (even though he lives in Cumbria and has done the marathon before) and was beaten into second place by a runner from Spain!
It was also the second race I had won as part of the European Mountain Marathon Series (the first one was in Tenerife back in April) so I need to do one more to try and win the series. So I may go over to Europe in the next few months to run another one…
Slightly less epic, Settle hills on Sunday.
Sunday provided a hot and sunny day for the Settle hills race. This was in 2010 one of my first ever races and I was intrigued to see whether I had got faster in the last 4 years. It starts in the town square and packs some steep ups and downs, some fast tracks and grass and some awkward limestone and tussocks into its 7 miles. A fun race with something for everyone. Valley Striders had a successful day with 2 out of the 4 of us competing getting prizes: Steve Webb getting (Vet50) and Keith Brewster (Vet60) Overall
1 Mark McGoldrick Wharfedale Harriers Man 55:46
7 Lindsey Brindle Horwich RMI Harriers Lady 1:01:37
8 Steve Webb Valley Striders MV50 1:02:02
19 John Marsham Valley Striders Man 1:06:22
25 Kim Spence Valley Striders Lady 1:07:36
56 Keith Brewster Valley Striders MV60 1:16:17
Conclusion: I have got slower since 2010 (01:04:37 then), but I blame supporting Simon on his BG the day before.
The World's best ultra and trail runners were in Chamonix for the Skyrunning World Championships, either for the 80 kilometre ultra event or the marathon.
Valley Striders were also out in force! We shared our apartment with Chapel A runners Nick Keen and Liga Magdelonaka-Keen and with Latvia, Germany and Norway making up our numbers we became Team Yorkshire International Sky Runners for the week in Chamonix.
The Championships kicked off at 4am on Friday morning with the 80 kilometre race. This involved 4 huge climbs linked by high level undulating contouring trails on the edge of the Mont Blanc Massiff. This was truly 'sky running'!!!!
3 Striders woke up for this and switched on head torches for the first climb zig zagging through the lower wooded slopes along with over a thousand others. In a little over an hour we were treated to the sight of Mont Blanc across the valley in the first light of dawn. That was really special. The day was then set for a day of sunshine, unbelievable scenery and ecstatic and at times agonising running.
Eirik Stanges (VS Norway) came home first in what was seemingly a very slow time of 18 hours 58 mins in 222nd place but those 80K stretched to 87K over very difficult terrain and with over 6000 metres of climbing thrown in. Only 570 of the starters were able to finish with the remainder either withdrawing or being timed out. The cut off times were extremely tough and unfortunately Sarah Smith (VS Yorkshire) fell foul of the rigid enforcement and was timed out after 50K of running.
I staggered in 2 hours after Eirik in 369th place. I say stagger but that was only until I was met by the Team Yorkshire International Sky Runners who ran in with me through the now dark deserted streets of early morning Chamonix, waking all with a cacophony of cow bell ringing and whoops and hollers. The best finishing experience ever!!!
Winner was Luis-Alberto Hernando of Spain in an amazing 10hrs 25mins. First Lady was Sweden's Tina-Emile Forsberg in an equally amazing time of 12hrs 38mins.
I was in the running for 1st M60 but faded in the 2nd half allowing Chamonix local Jacky Peche to gain almost an hour on me on the final climb and descent. It didn't stop me having the honour to stand on the same podium with the likes of Kilian Jornet and Anna Frost to receive my trophy for 2nd place.
Saturday was recovery time for those in the ultra race and preparation time for those running the Mont Blanc Marathon on Sunday. Preparation for John Batchelor was possibly more manic than planned as luggage containing all his racing gear did not leave Heathrow!!! Begging borrowing and shopping (rather than stealing!) got him to the start line at 7am along with Andreas Mayer (VS Germany), Clive Bandy, Liga and Nick.
Rain, low cloud and threats of storms led to the course been altered to avoid higher exposed sections and moving the finish to Chamonix town centre rather than the high level finish above the town at Planpraz. Heavy morning rain saw the two thousand plus runners clad in wet weather gear and with the clatter of hundreds of walking poles they were off into the drenched snow clad mountains.
Honours went to Chapel A's Nick Keen who made it back to Chamonix in 4hrs 46mins in 194th. Clive was next to finish in 5hrs 25mins in 492nd. Andreas was 5hrs 31mins in 543rd. Liga 5hrs 40mins in 653rd. John 5hrs 50mins in 741st.
Kilian Jornet won in 3hrs 26mins - of course! First Lady was Italian Elisa Desco in 3hrs 53mins in 32nd. Tom Owen was highest placed UK runner in 3rd. 2167 finished.
The weekend also hosted a vertical kilometre race, cross du Mont Blanc and a 10K race. A great long weekend with relatively cheap flights and accommodation. There was also free beer!
Link to full results and video: http://www.montblancmarathon.net/en/
A long report on a long race (which obviously suited Jasmin Paris – it’s not that often you see a women finishing third in a field of over a hundred).
1 Simon Harding Macclesfield 4:09:38
3 Jasmin Paris Carnethy 4:13:05
40 John Marsham Valley Striders 5:21:31
93 finished. 16 retired
It’s a small and laid-back crowd that makes the long drive to Wasdale. I didn’t think I’d know anyone else starting, but before I’d left the campsite I’d met another Leeds runner, and at the start I met a friend-of-a-friend from Black Combe (Mike). He told me that it was “all about eating enough” and that I’d got the line of the final descent wrong on my map. I saw that another Black Combe runner had a cheese sandwich in his bum-bag – how long did this race take? My collection of seven gels (one out of date) started to look slightly meagre.
The first climb was relaxed - lots of chat about recent and past collisions between cows and fell-runners, as well as cows and dry-stone walls. Then straight back down to the valley - I realised the race would be about having the stamina for the descents as much as anything. 2750m down would takes its toll and I began to not look forward to the last two miles and 900m down from Scafell Pike.
There’s lots of water on the route, but I’d forgotten spare drinks powder for the way round, and although it was overcast (so far), it was hot and humid and thought I’d need all the help I could get. Luckily, Joss Naylor was giving out squash at the road crossing (not so far from his house?), and that meant I could have a bottle of more than just water for the next climb.
A short down, and I caught Mike on the traverse across to the base of Pillar. It was hot - I was rationing my gels and splashing myself in every available stream. Up Pillar – great views - the strange pain in my foot had gone – so no excuses now. Down Pillar, round Kirk Fell - it was all becoming a bit of a blur. Up Gable (on the BG route – getting quite used to this ascent). Then the unpleasant rock/scree/path all the way down to Styhead. The descent really started to hurt – quads burning and legs not doing what they should. A horde of small children at the tarn wanted to give everyone jelly babies, which suited me as I only had one in-date gel left. Just had to ‘manage the exhaustion’ for one more climb and descent now…
Nearing the summit of Scafell Pike I saw Mike catching up – it looked like I was going to have a handy local guide for the way down. He claimed to be delirious, but seemed remarkably chatty for that, suggesting I might burn him off once I knew where I was going – he’d clearly not guessed how much my legs hurt on the previous downhill. I’ll never find Mike’s route off the summit again, but it found some grass between the rocks and I just about managed to hang on as we traversed out to the last fast grassy downhill ridge. It wasn’t that fast for me though – legs just refusing to run anything like normally until I was off the steep ground again. I even stopped at one point, until my brain processed the realisation that when I stopped the finish didn’t get any closer, and the pain would be over quicker if I just kept going. By now Mike was 3 minutes ahead enjoying the free sandwiches.
We’d met Ann on the way down. She’d not raced as her knees were playing up and she’d done the route using walking poles on the descents. I was grateful that she hadn’t overtaken me on the way down. We followed the other runners to sit in the stream, while bemused tourists looked on. “Iconic” as Mike called it – certainly a race to do if you like long Lakeland races, but perhaps the three-and-a-half hour drive might (fortunately?) keep it off the Striders’ Fell Champs list. Although, saying that, it feels like it was fun already.
Sarah Smith’s Fellsman (60 miles) http://valleystriders.org.uk/up140510.htm
Richard Adcock’s Marathon des Sables (6 days across the Sahara)
James Tarran’s Sierra Leone marathon
And finally if anyone reading this thinks that Valley Striders only do long distance events, some statistics to contradict this:
In the first 6 months of this year, Valley Striders members completed 1,200 parkruns (that’s over 3,700 miles). 146 different Striders (including 20 juniors) have run, and 57 different events have been attended.
And not forgetting our the junior parkruns – 120 runs (150 miles) completed by 24 different junior Striders.
So, Striders, if you run, no matter where you are, no matter how far, please send in a report for inclusion in a VS Update!