Races 2021

With lockdown slowly easing and more people being vaccinated, there is a certain amount of optimism regarding races in 2021. Pretty much every race last year was either cancelled or postponed, although both me and Helen are being cautious with what we enter.

Ullswater Trail Race

In two weeks time we will be racing around Ullswater. I’m doing the full race, 20 hilly miles, while Helen is doing the 10 mile version which includes a ferry ride to Pooley Bridge. Way before anyone had heard of Covid we did something similar with Nelly (read about it here).

Backyard Ultra

When I first stumbled upon the concept of the Backyard Ultra I knew that at some point I would have to have a go. The idea is simple, every hour you run just over 4 miles, and you keep going until only one person is left standing. The one I’m doing is in North Wales, but there are hundreds all over the world. Unlike Ironman, the original organisers are happy to support anyone who wants to put on their own version.

Coniston Swim

This was one of my cancelled races from last year, and it is the full length of Coniston Water, just over 5 miles. I’ve only managed two swims this year, however, this race isn’t until September so I should have opportunity to get a few longer swims in before the event.

Cancelled/Postponed Races

The Oldham Way Ultra has been postponed for the second year running, so possibly I will manage this hilly 40 mile race in 2022.

My amazing wife had entered us into the Castle to Coast Triathlon, which was cancelled last year, but we’ve deferred our entry until 2022. Neither of us had done enough cycling to enjoy what could be one of the best races we’ve ever done. The swim is in Windsor, the bike ride heads towards Brighton, and the run is 13 miles into Brighton, hence the name – Castle to Coast.

Hopefully we’ll enter a few more races as the year progresses, and we’re also looking forward to parkruns starting up again. It does appear that there are some issues and that they are looking to commence towards the end of June. Fingers crossed.

That’s us for official races. Helen will also be doing the Bay Limestone Round in a team once again, with me and Nelly supporting, and we’d also like to have a go at the George Fisher Tea or Espresso Rounds.

What races have you entered?

New Shoes – Update

I’ve had my new shoes for a month and I have to tell you that on the whole they are not too bad. My original review can be found here.

I’ve had them for just over a month, and I’ve run just over 100km in the New Balance and just over 60km in the Asics.

First off the New Balance road shoes. 5 out of 5. Very comfortable and they feel great. I can’t fault them. I will definitely be buying these again.

The Asics trail shoes are also very good, but not perfect. I don’t know if the perfect trail shoe exists, especially not with the trails and fells near Lancaster. They are very comfortable, especially on good trails and on the road. Unfortunately, when the trail becomes fell they let themselves down. If anything they have too much support when the ground is very rough, boggy and uneven. Me and my lovely wife did a run/walk from the village of Staveley at the weekend, and the route had a mix of everything. Helen was wearing her Saucony’s, the same that I used to have, and they were hard on her feet on the road sections, while I was fine. We were both good on the farm track and trail sections, but on the tougher sections I was struggling while Helen was fine. I suppose the answer is to have two different trail/off road shoes and wear whichever pair are most suitable for the terrain.

It will be interesting to see how both pairs look in another couple of months. I generally replace my road shoes after about 800km and by them they still don’t look too bad. Trail shoes generally get replaced before I would like to, as the uppers don’t seem to wear very well. Time will tell.

Sadgill

Yesterday was a good day. I’ve unexpectedly been placed on Furlough for a week and as my wife had booked a hair appointment in Kendal she asked if I wanted to head out that way for a run while she was busy. I didn’t need to be asked twice as I knew just the place for a run. Last summer I cycled up the Longsleddale Valley as far as the road goes (read about it here). This time I would drive to the end, leave the car and head up and over a couple of fells.

I created a route using Strava, although my first route up and over Kentmere Pike was a little ambitious for the available time, so I opted to head up Grey Crag and then back along the bridleway.

I dropped Helen off in Kendal and then set off up the A6 towards Shap. The Longsleddale Valley is almost 5 miles of a narrow road with few passing places. I was fortunate to only meet two vehicles, and on both occasions I was at a passing place. At the end of the road there is enough parking for about ten vehicles, and on a damp Tuesday there was plenty of space.

Almost immediately after setting off I was reduced to a walk as my route appeared to go straight up.

I continued up and up, until I reached a short plateau where I was able to run once again. This didn’t last long as I continued up. The views from the top were disappointing as the sun had disappeared almost as soon as I had started.

Once over Grey Crag I skirted Tarn Crag before dropping down towards the Gatescarth Pass Bridleway. I had deliberately made my route with the steepest sections uphill and the easier sections downhill. The steep sections at the start would have been far too dangerous for me to have run down.

The bridleway surface wasn’t too bad as I nipped back towards the car. The 9km route with over 500m of climbing had taken 90 minutes and was an absolute cracker, definitely one that I want to do again but with Helen and Nell. Although maybe next time we could go over the more famous Kentmere Pike, a fell that I have never been up.

I hadn’t seen another person the whole time that I had been out, and even though there were still plenty of other cars the place was deserted. I quickly changed in the car and drove back to Kendal to meet up with Helen. Her hair appointment hadn’t finished so I had time for a coffee and a slice of tiffin. I also have to add that Helen looked stunning.

The Bay Limestone Round – Leg 2

Last summer my lovely wife, Helen, and four of her friends completed the BLR as a relay team. This year they’re doing it again, but with each of them taking a different leg. Last year Helen did the last leg, which is technically the hardest leg. This year she is doing leg 2, which is the longest leg at almost 14 miles.

Yesterday one of Helen’s oldest friends very kindly drove to the finish of leg 2 so that we could leave our car, and then drove us to the start of leg 2, and on top of that didn’t complain about all the hair that Nelly left in her new car.

The start of leg 2 is near the village of High Newton, alongside the High Newton Lower Reservoir, which is an incredibly tough climb for the end of leg 1.

Anyway, we waved to Lisa as she started her drive back to Lancaster and we started our run back to the car. The first bit of leg 2 was along a road and mainly downhill, which was nice, especially as we knew there would be plenty of climbing later. Off the road and we wound our way through some woods and fields and past Witherslack Hall. After almost 4 miles of very easy running we came to the side of a cliff, which marked the first of the two summits on leg 2, Lord’s Seat at 215m high. As expected the views were amazing, and you can easily see how strong the wind sometimes blows.

Off the top of Lord’s Seat was once again very pleasant running with easy to follow paths, the complete opposite of leg 5. We dropped down to cross the main Lythe Valley road at the very posh looking Lythe Valley Country House Hotel.

Over half way and we were both still feeling good, although the hills started to get a little more frequent and the terrain more uneven. With the sun out we weren’t in any hurry and we more than happy to walk when we felt like it. However, at Middle Blakebank we had our first navigation problem. The route appeared to go straight through someone’s front garden. We backtracked and found the footpath arrow was correct so we looked left and right before deciding just to go for it. Half way through the immaculate garden we spotted another yellow footpath sign, so it was the correct route. A bit later we came to another house where the footpath also went through the garden, but this time the owners had put up signs and arrows so that people knew exactly where the path went. I’m sure the owners of the first house don’t like having a footpath going through their garden, but if you make it obvious where the path goes, people won’t be standing outside your front door for five minutes looking at maps and scratching their heads.

The next few fields were full of sheep and lambs, some very young with concerned Ewes. Across another small road and we were onto Gamblesmire Lane, which was easy running again as we neared our second summit, Cunswick Scar. We followed the official route through Scar Wood, although we think it might be quicker to continue along Gamblesmire Lane rather than the rough field. Anyway, once through Scar Wood there was only a short out and back to the summit before the last mile to the finish.

I hadn’t thought to bring a hat so Helen had lent me her buff to protect my shiny bald head. This was the only time of the day where we had seen more than two people, with families and dogs galore.

The last mile would have been great for running, but my legs were completely broken by this point. In hindsight a hilly 60+ mile bike ride the day before probably wasn’t such a good idea. However, with the wide open spaces it was great to let Nelly off her lead.

A few minutes later and we were back at the car. Full distance was a little over 14 miles with over 2000 feet of climbing. A tough leg which took us just over four hours, but as I said, we weren’t in any hurry. Helen will be much quicker on the day. It was also far easier navigation wise than leg 5. We might head back for another quick recce but I doubt if we’ll do the full leg again.

Strava details can be found here,

and my other BLR blogs can be found here.

Dog Hill and Blackstone Edge

The previous weekend, in glorious sun, myself, my lovely wife Helen and our silly Pointer headed off up for a walk/run up and over Ingleborough. This was one of the Howler series of virtual races. (Read about all of our Howler adventures here). Anyway, with lockdown version 3 well and truly on the way out, we opted for another of the Howler events, this one was ‘Minnesota’, which started and finished at Baitings Reservoir, halfway between Rochdale and Ripponden.

As we headed south we noticed more and more snow, but as the roads were clear we thought nothing of it. That is until we started to climb out of Rochdale. The roads hadn’t been gritted and we weren’t the only car that had to pull over. The sun was out and we could see that the compacted snow was melting fast, so after a few more vehicles had passed us we once again tried to make it to the top of the hill. Fortunately at the top the roads become the responsibility of Calderdale Council, who had been out gritting. We grabbed one of the last spaces in the car park and set off across the dam.

Once again Helen was in charge of the route while I kept hold of Nelly, who can be a real pest when we’re out running. After a short section on the road we slowly made our way up through a farm and up a very steep bank before finding ourselves along a ridge, albeit with deep snow.

The route had two main hills, both with Trig points, and it didn’t take us too long to reach the first, Dog Hill. Amazing views and hardly anyone else about.

Helen also took an obligatory selfie at the top, although we couldn’t manage one with Nelly; it was all too exciting for her little pointer brain.

From Dog Hill we dropped down towards Green Withens Reservoir. We stopped at the point where the water would flow over the top, and Nelly tried to jump over the wall, not realising that it was a huge drop on the other side. I stopped her in time, but it was a scary moment.

With a nice flat track we made good time on this section, as the terrain in the snow was hard work. We were also worried about the forecast that snow and rain could start later that afternoon. In the end the snow didn’t begin until we were back in the car.

With the M62 in sight we then started the long climb up to Blackstone Edge, obviously a popular spot as there were dozens of other people.

Fortunately this section had stone flags to walk along, so before we knew it we were at the top with amazing views across Manchester and the surrounding area.

We followed the main footpath down from the top for about a mile before heading east towards the car. Even though it was mainly downhill it was impossible to run as the snow was starting to melt, and it had settled on top of wet grass. I fell over a couple of times and Helen almost did the same. We also thought that it was safe to let Nelly off the lead for a little scamper. If we had let her off earlier we wouldn’t have seen her again, so we have to wait until she starts to tire so that she doesn’t go off too far. At ten years old she still has more energy than dogs half her age.

We dropped down beside an old stone wall where there was a man resting who apparently also had a pointer, but not with him at the time. Into a field with Ewes and lambs, Nelly on a tight lead, before the last road section.

Another fantastic Howler adventure and stunning weather once again. Final stats were just under 19km with just over 400m of climbing. We have two more routes that aren’t too far away, and then the others are south of Manchester, the Peak District and one in Wales.

New Shoes

A few days ago I wrote about how my old pair of trail shoes were falling apart (read about it here). I therefore decided to book an appointment at the local running shop (socially distanced and I was the only customer).

Ian, the owner, brought out three pairs for me to try, including a revamped Saucony Peregrine with much tougher uppers. I tried them all with a short run on the treadmill and despite the Peregrine feeling good I went with the pair of Asics Trabuco Max. Plenty of cushioning and plenty of grip. They also don’t look too bad. They are the pair on the left in the photo below.

I also needed a new pair of road shoes. Most of my running is done wearing road shoes so I like to have two pairs on the go at once, and as my current pair of Brooks had reached 500km it was definitely time for a back up shoe. My older pair of Brooks had done over 800km and have been relegated to walks in the park.

Ian brought out a couple of pairs of Brooks, an Asics and some New Balance. The latest version of the Brooks Adrenaline had changed slightly and didn’t feel quite right, however the Brooks Glycerin felt really good. I definitely wasn’t sold on the Asics, which is funny because for ten years they were always my go to shoe. When I tried on the New Balance 860’s they felt brilliant and as you can see from the photo they came home with me. The colour isn’t ideal but I’m not too fussed about that. It is also the first time that I have ever run in New Balance.

I’ve not run in either shoe yet, but me and my lovely wife are planning a good ten mile trail run tomorrow so it will be interesting to see how the Asics manage.

Saucony Peregrine

My go to trail running shoes for the last few years has been the Saucony Peregrine. They fit my feet well, have good tread in the wet and mud, and they aren’t too bad on harder trails or small sections of road. Unfortunately the uppers don’t last very well. My last pair managed 410km, but my current pair have fallen apart at only 350km. I do only use them when I know my route will be tough. If I’m going to be running on a good trail I often just use road shoes, so any trail shoe that I use will take a hammering.

I know that the trails around Lancashire are tough going and therefore will be very hard on any trail or fell shoe. However, at £100+ a pair I think I’m going to have a look at something else.

I read some very good reviews about North Face Vectiv Trail shoes, although I’m not keen on white. I also heard some very good things from Inov-8, possibly the Terraultra G 270. We’ll see what my local running shop can manage, and maybe 350-400km for a trail shoe in Lancashire is about right.

Ingleborough in the Sun

Lockdown has eased which can only mean one thing, mini-adventure time. At the end of last year I blogged about the Virtual Howler Series that my lovely wife Helen had signed us up for (read about it here). The series consists of ten 10 mile routes, named after US States, although this being Howler there are the odd extra ‘free’ mile. We managed ‘Dakota’ at the end of last year in the snow, which was an amazing run/walk (read about it here). Yesterday we opted for ‘Indiana’, which started and finished in Ingleton and headed up and over the peak of Ingleborough, the toughest of the climbs on the Three Peaks Route.

With Helen’s new Garmin Fenix 6 watch, with detailed maps and the route, we set off from Ingleton Falls car park and headed up Oddie’s Lane. We stayed on the road until a footpath took us near to the top of the falls path, with Nelly pointing us in the right direction. Our first major climb of the day was to the plateau Nelly was looking at.

We weren’t in any rush and was more than happy for Helen to take as many photos as she wanted, as we walked up the hills and ran on the flat and downhill sections. It wasn’t too early in the morning but it was cold even with the sun. We slowly wound our way up to the limestone plateau, only encountering two other people.

Along the top there was one well defined bridleway and a number of small undefined footpaths, but with Helen navigating we stayed on course. We stopped for a couple of minutes when the Ribblehead Viaduct came into view, although the photos didn’t come out very well. Nelly on the other hand decided it was time to make a silly face for the camera (my face is also quite silly).

From here it was a nice steady descent into the very small village of Chapel-le-Dale.

Over the main road and onto the long climb up to the top of Ingleborough. We soon joined the main Three Peaks route and even though the sun was out there wasn’t too many people. In the summer there can be thousands of walkers and runners. Fortunately the path is easy to follow and very well maintained.

In the distance Ingleborough rises up, with a notoriously difficult climb up the almost vertical slope, with very steep steps. Fortunately there were very few other people, no wind and no pressure. Nelly had a couple of little whimpers as we climbed but we were all happy to reach the last easier section to the very top. Obligatory photo at the Trig Point as we admired the amazing views and made the most of the sun. Once again Nelly was pointing the way we needed to go.

From the top it was a mostly steady 5km back down into Ingleton. There were plenty of people out walking, many with their dogs, and it was also good to see lots of young people out, including one woman running uphill quicker than we were running down. Once back at the car we gave Nelly a drink, although we had stopped every time we crossed a stream, before I opened a bag of Haribo for the journey home.

We had thought about doing a different Howler route just south of Burnley, but Ingleborough in the sun with very few people was an absolutely amazing day out. Eight more Virtual Howler events to complete before the end of the year.

One final note about Nelly. She is an English Pointer, renowned for being one of the fittest breeds, and even though she is getting on a bit she was still pulling at the lead at the end of the four hours. We had only taken her out for one short walk the day before, and the the day after will be the same. She is a tired old girl who is currently curled up on our bed, and without doubt she is the best dog in the world.

Ward’s Stone

Keeping with my plan that every other Friday should be a long run I decided to give Ward’s Stone another go. Ward’s Stone is the highest peak in the Forest of Bowland and one of the highest peaks in Lancashire, topping out at 561m. I’ve run up there before almost 18 months ago, when I started from Tarnbrook (read about it here). This time the plan was to start and finish at the small car park at the top of Littledale. This wasn’t the first time that I had attempted this route, as just over a year ago I started out but turned back due to snow (read about it here).

Anyway, the weather was much warmer and there was even a bit of sun as I set out. I was running in trail shoes as over half of the route was off-road and then only a couple of miles on-road. The first mile was all downhill and then the next four all uphill. I’ve been up the shooter’s track many times but I’m always surprised by how steep and long the climb is. It was also quite windy so I pulled on my gloves. There is also a magnificent Andy Goldsworthy land art sculpture just off the path which is well worth a look.

Soon I was at the Clougha Pike footpath crossing and unlike the previous times I could see the top of Ward’s Stone and the footpath to get there. I tried to dodge most of the standing water, but fell running in Lancashire is always wet. At the top I took a photo from the trig point and then headed along the plateau to the next trig point.

Once the path started to drop I was on the look out for a long fence. Follow the fence to the right and you end up in Tarnbrook, to the left takes you back to Littledale. This short section was the only part of the route which I’d never done before, and it was classic fell trods, or tussocks. Very difficult to run on as well as being very wet. I also had the wind in the face at this point and when the hail arrived I quickly pulled on my hat.

I tried to hurry down the fell to escape the worst of the wind and hail, only tumbling over the once. The footpath here doesn’t really exist so I just followed the breadcrumb trail on my watch. Soon the hail stopped and I was down in the Roeburndale Valley. After a short climb the muddy track soon joined the road and one last climb and I was back at the car.

Almost 19km with 667m of climbing is what I call a good run, and as an added bonus my legs didn’t feel too tired the following morning.

Strava activity can be found here.

Next time that I run in the area I might start from Tarnbrook again and head up to Wolfhole Crag, which is almost as high as Ward’s Stone. It is fantastic to have these amazing fells within a couple of miles of where we live.

Lockdown Weight

I’ve put on a bit of weight during lockdown. Mentally I have struggle with not being able to go on adventures with my lovely wife Helen and our silly pooch. Last summer when the lockdown eased we went on loads of mini-adventures and even had a brilliant week staying at Helen’s brother’s caravan in the south Lakes.

Since Christmas I’ve got myself into a bit of a habit of buying biscuits and chocolate. Helen doesn’t start work until 1pm and then works late, so I would walk with her on her way to work and buy myself some diet coke or pepsi, and sometimes a small bar of chocolate. This soon became biscuits as well. This didn’t help me mentally and I started to spiral downwards, feeling worse and then eating even more rubbish. However, getting my first vaccine jab seems to have helped. We can see the light at the end of the tunnel. Lockdown restrictions are due to ease in a few weeks with swimming pools opening again, and hopefully we’ll be able to go for run/walks in different counties as well.

Anyway I weighed myself for the first time in a couple of years and I was 83kg (13 stone 3 lbs). I would like to drop down to 75kg. I have eased off the biscuits and chocolate, and I plan to alternate Fridays with a long run or a long bike ride. The long run being at least 2 hours and the bike ride at least 100km, with the aim of completing a couple of 100 milers later this summer. I also want to do another ultra run, although exactly where and when is yet to be decided, possibly Panther takes the hindmost in October again.

We do have some adventures planned, with Helen and her friends having another go at the Bay Limestone Round, with each of them taking a different leg. We’ll have to recce the route a few times which I’m looking forward to. We also have the Castle to Coast Triathlon in July to look forward to, and I have a 5 mile swim in Coniston in September as well. That’s all though. Like most people we’ve not entered anything as we’re waiting to see what the summer brings, but with over 40% of the UK population already having one jab the future is looking brighter.