Tuesday, 1 December 2009

Great end to 2009

Well, it was a great finish to 2009 - the Vasque RunFurther Party! I was really proud to have managed to win the ladies series (quite a close call with Nicky Spinks setting a ladies course record in the final race of the year) - but my extra 100 points for taking part in the Lakeland100 paid off. I just completed 4 races in the series (Calderdale 1st lady, Fellsman 3rd lady, Lakeland100 1st lady & Pulmlumon joint 3rd lady), but together with some adventure races & Elite LAMM it has felt like a pretty busy racing year for me. I guess the Lakeland100 was the highlight from the series for me -- one tough challenge!

The party/celebration part was once again at Wilfs (Stavely, Lakes) & it was great hearing about others tales of much more epic multi-day challenges (across the UK & in hot & cold places). It was also nice to chat to people who i have got to know this year doing some of the runfurther series races. Thanks to Karen for her hard work organising the event -- i would definitely recommend the party to everyone for next year.. whichever races out of the series you attempt!

Photo - testing out the 2010 Vasque Mindbender shoes at the Whinlatter off-road duathlon (run 5K, mountain bike 16k, run 5k) on the Sunday morning after the party. The Mindbender shoes are definitely worth looking out for next year - i really like them. I did all my runfurther races in my Vasque Blurs - which i find really comfortable for ultras. I think the Mindbender is going to be a great addition to the range - still a nice comfy and cushioned shoes, but with a lighter upper makes them better for general UK conditions (ie wet/mud!). Despite not being too sure about my mountain biking racing skills in a duathlon (OK in adventure races as you have to stop and navigate on them) - i managed to have a great morning and finish 1st lady - so topped off a great weekend!

Tuesday, 15 September 2009


A day in the sun..... it was lovely weather for the Pumlumon Challenge (i have now asked and been told it is pronounced "Ply-limon"). At a "short" 27 miles i knew i should be OK to get round -- but knew my legs were not yet recovered from the Lakeland 100 (although it was 6 weeks ago now). I needed to complete the race to make up my short race counter in the Vasque runfurther series so i had decided to come along and enjoy it.

It is a very small friendly race, i think there were probably only about 40 runners and it was an area of Wales i had never ever been too. I had been pre-warned that it would be "mountain marathon"-type terrain so was prepared for the off-path tussocks. Some of the route was on tracks and paths so the mixture made it interesting. The glorious blue skies meant visibility wasn't a problem, and arrows on fence posts made most of the navigation straight forward. It was pleasantly hilly - not too much climbing but it ceratinly wasn't flat. There were some great views over the reseviour the route circled, as well as Snowdonia mountains and the sea. I ran 2/3rds of the race mainly on my own, although Julie Gardner kept catching me up. As i climbed up the last hill and Julie caught me again, i decided to relax and run together & that helped enjoyment of the last section of the race. I was very impressed with Julie's running - she has done so much this year.. and this race was only 2 weeks after the PTL out in the Alps -- i was still feeling slow 6 weeks post Lakeland so was amazed! Julie and i finished together (along with Julie's dog) in 5hr 50mins as joint 3rd lady. It was a great venue to finish in too - i sat in the sun eating my very nice pasty watching a red kite gliding around the woodland! Definately a lovely little race & one to do again. As for the runfurther series this year.... well i got a few more points than i expected for this race, so will have to wait and see till after the Long Mynd in a few weeks time to see the final ladies results.

Thursday, 6 August 2009

Lakeland 100 : Race report

“The Lakeland 100 (UTLD) 2009 took place on the weekend of July 31st-August 2nd and is reported to be the most spectacular long distance trail race which has ever taken place within the UK.

The circular route encompasses the whole of the lakeland fells, includes in the region of 6300m of ascent and consists entirely of public bridleways and footpaths. The lakeland route starts in Coniston in Cumbria and heads South before completing a clockwise loop which takes in the Dunnerdale fells, Eskdale, Wasdale and Buttermere before arriving in Keswick. From here, the route heads to Matterdale and continues over to Haweswater before returning via Kentmere, Ambleside and Elterwater to the finish at Coniston.” (www. lakeland100.com)

So I knew it was going to be a big challenge. I had been on a long day out in January and had completed the Conistion to Keswick section; I had a really nice day and it tempted me to enter the race. I completed the Fellsman (62miles) in May this year, but this would be my longest ever race, and I wasn’t too sure what to expect – would my legs keep going?

My parents gave me a lift up to Coniston on Friday morning as they were going to spend the weekend cheering me on. I spent a really nervous afternoon trying to read a book, drink tea & relax, but by the time the start came I was a bundle of nerves! So it was good to get going at 7.30pm – about 100 runners set off through Coniston and up towards the slate mines & the Walna Scar road. It was a drizzly start, but the rain was to get much worse later. The first checkpoint was in Seathwaite and then we headed off on the route that the Duddon fell race takes. As we approached Harter Fell the headtorches came out to negotiate the boggy woodland paths. I knew the route so was leading a small group. By the time we got down to Boot it was really dark and the rain had begun to get heavier. I knew that heading over to Wasdale Head the paths would be vague so I had my map & compass out and managed to keep us on a good route. Good flapjacks at the checkpoint in Wasdale and then off up the big climb over Black Sail Pass. The wind was really blowing at the top & I headed down to the youth hostel as quickly as possible – not that quickly on all the wet slippy rock! By the time I got to the youth hostel I was just with one other guy – we had chatted a bit earlier and he told me he was from Lithuania. As we climbed Scarth Gap Pass together he said the highest mountain in Lithuania is 252 m – this race was going to be quite a challenge then! (I was pleased to find out on Sunday he did make it round OK). I knew the navigation from Buttermere would be a bit tricky, this time I was aided by others around with a GPS & we got on the right path down to Braithwaite OK. Some welcome rice pudding & pasta (I did wonder if it was Ok to eat them in the wrong order?) and after 5mins or so I was ready to head out of the door into the slow dawn.

As I ran along the main road I met up with Drew, who became my running buddy for the rest of the race. We also joined another runner (who was pacing himself well as he finished 5th) and we ran together as a 3 for a few hours. The rain was lighter & I was considering taking my waterproofs off, but as we climbed up to the stone on the Cumbrian way near Blencathera there were still some showers. A quick stop at Blencathera & a quick call to let my husband know I was doing well and to expect me in Dalemain at my “early” estimate. Then it was a climb up to the old coach road and then 6 miles along the track to Dacre. It was nice heading towards Dalemain with views of Ullswater & knowing I had made good time to the “half” way point (nearer 60 miles). My husband & parents were there to cheer me on at Dalemain & I put dry clothes on & had a good amount of food.

Anyway, couldn’t stop for long and headed off in the sunshine – now wearing my shorts & t-shirt which was nice. I think this was the best bit of the race with views of Ullswater and then Haweswater. As Drew and I passed High Knop Martin & Martin, who were leading the 50 mile race, bounded past yelling “Go Team Vasque!”, followed by the other fast 50-mile runners. Lucy passed us as we started on the contouring path along Haweswater. I knew the path along the lake had felt long in my reccie but it did seem to go on for ages! Heading up and over Gatescarth Pass lots of the 50-mile competitors passed – everyone was very encouraging so that was great. The best quote was “you’re my heros!” – which was nice – I didn’t feel very heroic later on! The rocky descents were hard work and & I was flagging a bit getting to Kentmere. But a welcome Smoothie was excellent & it was onwards again – now Ambleside was the focus.

Arriving in Ambleside we did get a cheer from the pub beer garden, as well as a big cheer from the group of supporters outside LakesRunner. Inside for some tea & a sandwich – unfortunately my stomach wasn’t quite so keen on the idea of proper food so I spent 10mins sat outside trying to calm my tummy down. This was the first point I suddenly wondered if I could do it – I didn’t like not feeling in control, but fortunately I picked myself up & Drew was waiting ready to carry on. We set off hoping to everyone at the finish in maybe 4 hours (it actually took us another 6 or so) -- the last 15miles were pretty tough for me. As we left Ambleside it began to get dark & started raining again. I was pleased that I had reccied the route so that helped – we made good progress to the Chapel Stile checkpoint. Then it was hard work going along Langdale – I thought it couldn’t be that far but it seemed to take ages & I felt I was really stumbling a lot on the rocky paths. But we got there & up & over to Blea Tarn was OK. Finding the best route down to the road was a bit tricky in the dark & all the bracken but we made it & were close with some other people again. One more up & over before the final checkpoint. We were keen to finish so carried straight on up the steps to the quarry, knowing there was a big group of people behind. We made the mistake of agreeing to follow all the other headtorches as I was worried about the last bit of navigation – we did end up a bit off course which was frustrating, but the group in front got sorted before I could get my compass out and apply my tired brain – the path was spotted and we were through the gap and on to the final descent. As we hit the track Drew said it was 3am – if we could do the last bit OK (probably less than a mile) we would make under 32 hours – so somehow managed a bit of a jog & even got up some speed on the last bit of road…. In to the finish in 31 hours 47 minutes to be met by my husband and parents – I think it was relief all round!!

Andy Rankin won the race in a new course record of 22 hours 46 min. I finished 16th overall as first lady, setting the inaugural women’s course record. There were about 40 finishers out of about 100 starters… so goes to show it is a pretty tough race. Thanks very much to the race organizers & all the marshalls/checkpoint staff who were up all weekend & also thanks to my parents & husband to their support cheering me on over the weekend too.

Monday, 3 August 2009

Lakeland 100

Wow i made it!! Am really pleased & fantastic to set the inaugural women's course record. It was a tough wet first night but then a nice bright day for most of Saturday with some lovely Lakeland views and good running. The last 15 miles were a big struggle for me - in the dark and more rain.... was very relived to finish at 3.20am on Sunday morning in 31 hours 47 minutes (16th overall). There had been about a 100 starters and just 30 finishers.... it was definitely a tough race. Big thanks to my new running "buddy" - Drew - we had set off from Braithwaite checkpoint together at 4.30am on Saturday and stuck together for the rest of the race so that was fantastic & helped get me round. Also big thanks to my husband & parents who came and cheered me on & were there waiting for me at the finish in the middle of the night. Also a quick thanks to the race organisers & all the marshalls....it was a really well run event so thanks.

But i am still tired this evening, so a full race report will have to wait.... hopefully I'll get a report & a few piccies on here later this week if you are interested...

Tuesday, 14 July 2009

Wasdale Fell Race

Just been reading accounts of the Hardrock...., not sure Wasdale is really comparable -- but it is probably one of the toughest Lakeland single day fell races i think. At 21 miles & 9000ft of ups and downs i definitely found it tough for me this year.

It was glorious weather and great to get up on lots of Lakeland summits with great views. It was clouding up as i was starting up Scafell from Gable, but it stayed clear for all of the runners i think. The race has some big climbs and generally quite runnable descents -- although i wish i could fly down them with as much ease as some of those around me. I finished in 5hr 48 mins (15 mins slower than my first attempt last year) -- afraid i didn't find out who won either men's or ladies titles this year.

A sunny start

Tuesday, 30 June 2009

Lakes -- training & supporting

Spent the last couple of weekends very pleasantly exploring around Ullswater. I did not really know the Ullswater/Haweswater end of the Lakes much and it has been lovely to do some running round there. Dave completed the first "Day in the Lakes" Ullswater half ironman triathlon last weekend so i pootelled around supportng on my bike and gentle running. It was a pretty hot day and the triathletes all looked like they were working very hard. I was hot enough and i wasn't racing! It has been good to have a few long training days out in the Lakes and enjoy the views -- I've even got quite in to carrot cake Cliff bars ( i think the cherry ones are a nicer flavour -- but have found the Cliff bars are a really good consistency especially after they have been jiggling around for 6 hours in your rucksac they are edible!). I have been looking forward to trying out some new Vasque trainers, but unfortunately they seem to have got lost in the post somewhere at the moment. At the moment i am running in Vasque Blur trainers which i am finding really good for paths/trails etc - even in the Lakes.

Training Run above Ullswater - June 2009

Tuesday, 9 June 2009

LAMM 2009

We are just back from an excellent weekend competing in the LAMM in Kintail, Scotland. Despite a severe weather warning sent out by email to all competitors before the event, the weather over the weekend in Kintail was actually very good for a mountain marathon - good visibility and a breeze in mid-camp keeping the midges away.

Dave (my husband) and i were competing in the Elite class for the first time. In fact it was just two years ago we tried our first mountain marathon - entering the C class in the LAMM. We have really got in to the MMs and fell running & last year i completed LAMM 'A' class with Mandy (also Team Vasque), so we decided that it was time to step up to the challenge of the Elite course. There were 538 starters this year, including a new score class.

Looking slightly nervous before the start on Saturday -- yes i was wearing my Vasque team kit under my waterproof -- fortunately hardly needed to wear my waterproof all weekend once we had set off!

We set off at 8am (first pair -- obviously got there too keenly on Friday!) from a short walk away from the event centre. Unsurprising straight up a big hill! We then did some contouring around the Five Sisters and after that got overtaken by 5 or 6 of the fast elite pairs racing down our first big descent. A few of our controls were shared with C class, so there were some other pairs around, but generally very quiet. A big climb about 5 hours in was very tough, but we felt it saved us some contouring so the best route for us. The rest of the day seemed to disappear quickly -- hills interspersed with fresh Scottish stream water to wash down various combinations of Cliff Shot Blocks, banana sandwiches, Cliff bars and dried fruit. Dave was doing a great job on the navigation and we found all the controls on Sat without much difficulty (aided by great clear weather). Mid-camp is always a welcome site (although i am never so keen on how far down it is to get to it) - managed a good pace downhill to finish day one in 8 hours 57 minutes. I was pretty exhausted, but fortunately Dave had the energy to find us a great camping spot with mountain and lake view and after lying down and eating i felt ready to get to sleep at 9pm. Nice atmosphere at camp and seemed everyone had had a good day.Photo from LAMM website

Traditional LAMM wake-up call bagpipes at 5am were quite welcome - time to get the kettle on and some tea & porridge. We were over 50 minutes behind the first mixed pair and then had 30 minutes lead on the 3rd mixed pair, so we needed to have a good steady day out, but knew catching the first mixed pair was unlikely -- and they stormed past us on the first hill looking really strong. After starting out in the same direction as the B course, the rest of the day we were mainly on our own, meeting up with some of the other Elite pairs later in the day. The climbs were nearly as tough as day 1, although there did seem to be less rocky/tussocky contouring so that was good. We wished we had sneaked in a light-weight camera really as there were stunning views, including a great view of deer silhouetted in front of big mountains. Views of the Cullin, Torridon & some even said the Ben -- and many more mountains. We were cross we did miss one of the checkpoints and wasted 15 minutes or so -- although we were then together with the other mixed pairs so helped spur us on on the last hill for a good racing finish - we finished Day 2 in 7 hours 22 minutes. (Course statistics was 35km and 2500m on Day 1 and 26km and 2000m on Day 2).

We were very pleased we completed our first ever Elite MM - coming in 11th out of the 15 pairs and second mixed pair. We had missed the prize giving by the time we finished, but there was still a nice atmosphere at the Event centre with teams still finishing and a lot of tired but pleased looking people sat in the grass in the sun. A really great weekend- thanks to all those who give up their time making this event happen.