Canalathon

Like most people I like to have a couple of ‘A’ races to aim for each year. An early season ‘A’ race for me is the Canalathon. There are three distances, 50km, 75km and 100km. I’m doing the short one, which goes from Manchester to Sowerby Bridge along the canal towpath.

I’ve upped my running in the last couple of months, with my attempt at RED December (Run Every Day) and a 25km run last weekend (read about it here). My aim is to do another long run every two weeks, but probably nothing longer than 30km.

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Despite the many ultra-distance triathlons that I’ve done, I’ve only previously done one ultra-run, which was Halloween Hell on the Humber. That particular race was a 6 hour run over and back across the Humber Bridge as many times as you can. Each lap was 4 miles and I managed 8 laps. I think the winner did 11. I had enough time to complete one more lap but I didn’t have the legs.

The run legs of the ultra triathlons that I’ve done have been on 1 mile laps, so Canalathon will be my first ultra-distance run that is a point to point.

I’ve mentioned to a few people about this race, and almost everyone has said that it should be nice and flat. In the 13 miles from Manchester to Rochdale there are 41 locks, so most definitely not flat. However, the race will be very easy to navigate as the race never leaves the towpath. The Rochdale canal beyond Sowerby Bridge goes through a tunnel so this makes it the perfect place for the finish.

An interesting fact about the Rochdale canal is that the summit is very short and has always struggled with a constant supply of water. Nowadays there is a limit of only four boats per day.

Me and my beautiful wife are hoping to make a weekend of the event, staying in an Airbnb with our dog, and hopefully doing Halifax parkrun on the Saturday. I’ve also booked the Monday off work to give my legs a chance to recover.

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Long Slow Run

I’ve entered the 50km version of Canalathon in two months time, so I thought it was about time that I did some longer runs. The 50km version of Canalathon starts in Manchester and finishes in Sowerby Bridge, which I think is the full length of the Rochdale Canal. There is also a 75km and 100km event on the same day, but for me the 50km version will be far enough.

Back to this morning’s run. I did just over 25km at a nice even pace, aiming for 10km an hour. I also wanted to try out my new Montane Fang5 trail running vest which my amazing wife bought for me last week. She’s had one for a few months and I borrowed it when we did a 90 minute run last week, but it was a little small. I also enjoyed holding the full water bottles, which remind me of fake boobs, although I have never touched fake boobs so I’m just guessing.

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The first hour was running with our silly little pointer, Nelly. To keep her happy we went to the park and did two laps with her off the lead chasing squirrels. Imagine my surprise when she returned with one in her mouth. If I’m completely honest I think she may have found it and didn’t actually catch and kill it herself.

 

We then continued past the prison and down to the River Lune cycle path before returning home. Nelly didn’t look impressed about having to end her run when it was obvious that I was carrying on. Nelly isn’t the easiest dog to run with and 25km with the second half mainly on paved roads wouldn’t suit her.

Being incredibly organised I didn’t have any gels and knowing that without any extra calories I would be in a mess by the end, so I passed The Edge Cycleworks (friendly local bike shop in Lancaster) and bought a couple of Torq gels, finishing one there and then. My usual brand for gels is OTE, but if I’m feeling cheap I go for the Wiggle own brand. I seem to be able to run with any gel, except got Power gels where I had a very bad experience at the Lanzarote Ironman in 1999. I had my second Torq gel as I passed the new university building. Forest Fruits flavour not as nice as the Rhubarb one.

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With only 5km left I slowly made my way home, and managed to not have to add in any silly little loops to make up the distance.

Writing this blog a few hours later, and my legs don’t feel too bad, although my ankles feel stiff so I will probably go for a very gentle swim in the morning. The Montane vest was brilliant. I might have to adjust the straps a little, but it was comfortable and I hardly noticed that I was wearing it. It also had pockets to put my hat and gloves as the run was a little warmer than expected, and various other useful pockets for my phone, keys and gels. A bi thank you to my lovely wife for buying it for me.

Book Review:Alex Hannold – Alone on the Wall

One look at the cover is enough to give many people sweaty palms, and yes he really is standing on a ledge with no ropes or safety equipment.

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A couple of weeks ago me and my beautiful wife went to the local cinema to see Free Solo, a documentary about Alex Hannold’s attempt to climb El Capitan in Yosemite without any ropes, i.e. free solo.

It was terrifying to watch because El Cap is one huge slab of near vertical granite. Most climbers take two days to climb it, using every piece of equipment available. With a free solo climb there are no second chances. One mistake and you die. I can highly recommend watching the film.

After watching the film I remembered that I had seen clips of a documentary about an earlier climb in Yosemite that Alex had completed. This time on Half Dome. I’ve been to Yosemite twice and absolutely loved it, even walking all the way to the top of Half Dome one time. Alone on the wall is more than Alex’s climb up Half Dome, it covers his whole life and most of his serious climbs, not just the scary free solo ones.

If you are a climber then you already know who Alex Hannold is, but even if you’re not you should check out either this book or one of the documentaries set in Yosemite. Absolutely terrifying, but yet totally gripping.

Ford Parkrun, Ulverston

I’ve blogged a couple of times before about how brilliant parkrun is. Read about my pb at Lancaster parkrun here, and about reaching 25 parkruns here. I’ve also recently started to listen to the free weekly timed parkrun podcast with Vassos Alexander (former sports bloke from the Chris Evans radio show) and Louise Ayling (uber-parkrun tourist), which is very enjoyable. One item that caught my attention was the extra stats that were available if you download a plug-in for either Chrome or Firefox. I will blog about these stats sometime in the future, but one of them that was particularly interesting was my NENDY – Nearest Event Not Done Yet. According to the stats, based on distance as the crow flies from my home parkrun of Lancaster, my NENDY was Ford parkrun in Ulverston. Me and my beautiful wife therefore decided that this Saturday we would have a road trip, along with our loyal pointer, Nelly.

Ford parkrun is fairly new, with today being only the 24th event. We found the park without too much trouble and were immediately welcomed as old friends. Due to it being a bit damp we would be running the ‘winter’ route, which was four laps, including quite a tough little hill.

I chatted to a few people at the start who told me that they’ve only had 100+ runners on a couple of occasions. Secretly I was hoping to improve on my best finishing position of 5th.

The route was a little tricky with tight corners, a dead turn and a slippery grass section. Gradually as the run went on I managed to overtake a few people and finished in a very pleasing second place, although I was two minutes behind the winner. My brilliant wife finished in 32nd, which considering how narrow the paths were, and to be running with an unruly dog, was also very pleasing.

Overall a very pleasant trip to Ulverston, with some of the friendliest people. Not the easiest parkrun for a dog, but Nelly didn’t seem to mind.

Back home I had a look at my revised NENDY, which is now Blackpool, although I’ve promised my wife that we would do our fiftieth parkruns together. Today was my 49th and Helen’s 45th, so no parkruns for me for a few weeks.

Rivington Pike Night Run

Me and the wife are always looking for something different, so when I saw an advert for a night run up to Rivington Pike we decided to enter. A few months ago my job moved to Horwich, which is the town at the bottom of Rivington Pike, so I had run up there a couple of times before work.

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We didn’t know what to expect when we arrived, but what we didn’t expect was over 400 entrants. The race HQ was buzzing with people. We said ‘hi’ to Charlie, who was on a running streak of over 100 days, and his daughter, who was also running.

I was wearing my Enduroman woolly hat, and one of the race marshalls came up to me, also with the same hat. We chatted about which race he’d done and what year, although it turned out that we’d never been to the event in the same year. As an aside, at the swimming pool this morning I saw a man wearing a Brutal events swimming cap. Ultra-triathlon competitors from both of the UK based races in the same week, small world indeed.

Back to the race, and I had agreed to run with my beautiful wife, just in case she got lost, although with so many people there this was highly unlikely. I was happy to run a little slower as I had done a 7km swim the previous day and was still feeling a bit tired. Not the best preparation for what was going to be a fairly tough run for everyone.

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With so many people running, we set off near the back, which in hindsight was a mistake as the first hill (which seemed to go on forever) had a couple of pinch points, so as soon as a few people started walking, everyone behind had to. The climb was also full of gnarly old cobbles, making it tough going under foot. Eventually the hill flattened allowing us to run for a while, before the next climb up round the back of the Pike.

As soon as the track started to descend my wife was off. She is naturally a very good off-road runner, and I always struggle to keep up with her on the descents. The downhill bit didn’t last for too long as we soon headed off up Winter’s Hill, although not all the way to the top where the large mast is. The track off the top was again very tricky and muddy, and I was overtaking by quite a few people. The view was also spectacular, not through the mist, but with all of the head torches disappearing into the distance.

Back onto the wide track before the final descent back to the race HQ, with large grins on our faces. Both of us loved the event, very well organised, plenty of marshalls and generally lots of very happy runners. The whole event had been given an ‘alien’ theme, hence the unusual medal and race number.

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The race numbers also had a small timing chip on the back, so the results were online within a couple of hours of crossing the finish line. My amazing wife even managed to finish 5th in her age group. Another nice feature was that the official race photos were uploaded onto Facebook so that you could download any you wanted for free.

A big thank you to Epic Events for putting on a great race, and to all of the volunteers, supporters and marshalls who turned out on a cold and windy night in January. Definitely a race that we will be doing again.

500 Strava Challenges

18 months ago I blogged about completing 300 Strava challenges (read about it here). It wasn’t a particularly well written blog (I generally know if a blog I’ve written sucks), but it has become my most read blog, with well over 300 views. Not a huge amount I grant you, but large enough for my little blog.

Today, after a short run with our dog Nelly, I’ve checked off another two challenges bringing my total up to 500. You can see the screenshot from my phone below, with the badly drawn circle.

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Incidentally, I really like the new-ish feature on the Strava app that shows how many challenges have been completed.

Three years ago I celebrated completing 200 challenges by cycling 200km. I also contacted Strava who very kindly sent me a T-shirt, water bottle and a few other goodies. At 300 challenges I cycled 300km and once again contacted Strava with the aim of more freebies. Alas, none was to be had. At 400 challenges my legs were not up to a 400km ride, and I also failed to beg for more free stuff.

500 challenges then! I’m definitely not doing a 500km cycle ride in the middle of January, with heaps of snow forecast in the next few weeks. An alternate target to set myself might be to swim 500km over the whole year. I’m having a bit of a swimming month, Swimuary if you like, so I’m off to a good start with 42km done in the first 15 days.

I might also contact Strava once again, just on the off chance that 500 challenges brings out their inner Santa, and sacks full of goodies will be winging their way to my front door.

I would like to see a Swim Challenge, especially know that so many people have swim watches. Maybe a 1 mile or 1km challenge and a distance challenge for every month.

It would also be interesting to know if anyone else is sad enough to have completed that many challenges. I’m not as obsessed as I used to be as I often miss a few challenges every month, but I’m still not the sanest bearded triathlete out there.

Here’s to the next 500.

Boundless by Kathleen Winter

Finished my first book of the year, and as expected it is another travel book. This time through the infamous and dangerous northwest passage.

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Kathleen was a last minute addition to a predominantly tourist trip through the icy waters of the Arctic. The boat is mainly full of geologists and bird watchers, along with knowledgeable experts. A writer was also required, so grabbing whatever gear she could find she jumped at the chance.

The ‘cruise’ begins in Greenland before crossing Baffin Bay and dropping into various small inuit settlements. As with many natives, their treatment at the hands of settlers has been very poor. The Canadian government moved whole villages to other areas, hoping to end disputes with Denmark and Russia over land. As expected this didn’t end well for the natives as they didn’t know the area, where the good hunting grounds were or the means to survive.

The book also delves into Kathleen’s background and how she moved to Newfoundland as a child with her family from the north east of England.

I really enjoyed this book, with it’s mix of history, from both the native inuits and the visiting expeditions, along with the voyage that Kathleen was part of. The ending is unexpected, but if you like your travel writing with a bit more intelligence and history, you’ll love this book.