Monday 29 June 2009

Lake District training

I tried my hand at an orienteering event this week, organised by the local group. I have never done this before, and I need to practice my fine navigation skills. I told them I was new, so they put me on the moderate course. I didn't know what to expect, but I had no problem navigating sometimes with compass assistance, but mostly off map and terrain features. I got around the course is fairly good time. I didn't really go flat out at all, and deliberately used my compass for practice even when I didn't need to. The course was only 3.3km with 105m of ascent. It took me around 26 minutes, and I got to use the Sport Ident, electronic controls, for the first time. I had better get used to them, since all orienteering and mountain marathons use them. I consider myself a novice navigator really, but even I found the course very straightforward, and doubtless need a bigger challenge than a small orienteering course. As it turned out I logged the fastest time, but that really isn't much to be proud of when you are racing teenagers and pensioners is it! So, I will have to seek more challenging orienteering!

This weekend just gone, I went to the Lake District armed with the day 1 and day 2maps from a Mountain Marathon. The event itself was cancelled on day 1 due to severe weather. I was half hoping that I would get some bad weather to, so I could test out my navigation skills in harsh conditions. As it was, the weather was perfect. If anything, it was too hot. However, I had to be prepared for any eventuality, so I had an 11kg pack, including tent, waterproof clothes, warmer clothes, cooking equipment and 3l of water.

I downloaded the Medium Score day 1 and day 2. This is basically 6 hours time limit on day 1 and 5 hours limit on day 2. On the map are various controls. You decide which ones and how many you want to visit within the time limit, choosing any route between them (within the rules). If you finish late, 2 points are deducted for every minute you are late. So, it is important to know how much ground you can cover in the time allowed.

I left my car at Seathwaite, and planned my route. I decided to would try and get 6 of the controls, with a possible option for more if time allowed. Below is the map. My start point indicated by the red triangle, towards the bottom right.

Here's a photo taken at the beginning, about 9:45am.

I would be navigating from a Harvey 1:40k map, and compass, not GPS. I did however, have my GPS along to log my route (as you can see above), to check for mistakes when I got home. The route begin with a very steep climb, with some all fours scrambling, out of Seathwaite up towards A mountain called Grey knots. A plateau underneath the summit was the location of the first control.

My navigation was a bit sketchy here, just getting used to the map, but all was well in the end and the location was found. From there it was up and down to Honister pass. I refilled my water bottles at the Youth Hostel there, though in the real event I would be refilling by bottles from streams.

Next was a climb up Dale Head which is another good climb. Just before the summit I had to head East and locate a Tarn (a small lake) for the next control. The visibility was excellent so I found the Tarn very easily (as pointed out by me below).

I then made my way North towards High Spy for the 3rd Control. Now by this time around 2 and a half hours had gone by, so I decided there was no chance I could go for any controls further form the finish. I opted to stick to the original plan, and head up to Dale Head summit.

Then along the ridge to Hindscarth, and then Robinson, (I stopped the clock whilst I 'bagged' the summits - though I've been to all of these before anyway!), picking up another control just before the summit there.

After that there was a toe crushing descent into Buttermere, picking up another control half way down, just near where this was taken.

I made a bad, but easier navigation, decision to handrail down and around a wall. This meant I went in a semi circle, a longer route, but the navigation was a no-brainer. The ground was very tough; steep, with rocks under high ferns making for the ever present danger of a sprained ankle. I should have just opted for dropping straight off the even steeper South face of Robinson, which was a much shorter route.

Here is Buttermere, the Lake where I camped that evening.

As it was, I got to the final (compulsory) control with just 5 minutes to spare, though to be fair I had taken a lot of photo's etc. I had only managed an average of 1.5mph, 4000ft of ascent, 4200ft of descent, and covered just under 10 miles in the 6 hour limit. I would have got 110 points, but bear in mind I had perfect conditions, which I won’t have in October! Shortly after I finsihed it began to rain, so I did get some use out of my waterproof clothes, if only for half an hour.

I camped in a little patch of trees on the far side of Buttermere Lake that night.

The following morning I got out my day 2 map, and planned a route. Just for some variation here's a Google Earth view. The route was about 8.5 miles long, and had 3500ft of ascent.

The route began once again with a stiff climb towards (but not up entirely) Fleetwith Pike, again some all fours scrambling, since I opted not to use either of the footpaths, and go for a more direct route straight up alongside the small stream and waterfall.

These were taken about half way up, looking back towards Buttermere.

The first control took about an hour to get to (close to the Summit of Brandreth), and was quite challenging, as a Tarn featured on the map just wasn't there to be found! Still I was in the right place, I reasoned (and was proven right by checking GPS later).

From there it was a long way to the second control I selected. I had a crisis of route choice half way to Green Gable, but decided against a 30 point control just in case it meant I could not get a later control. I summitted Green Gable, pictured below.

Then descended on the rubble-like path to Styhead Tarn

It was another fairly steep descent. Here is a shot I took looking back up, the crease in the centre of the picture, being the descent.

I picked up one final control just before Sprinkling Tarn, and decided I didn't have time to for an more as I had just an hour left to get back to Seathwaite. The descent was picky at times, and a little slow, but I got back with about 20 minutes to spare, and averaged 1.7mph. I logged 90 points for the day 2 effort.

A good weekend training. My knee did hurt and times, so we'll have to see how it feels this week. I assume it is still healing from the operation. The discomfort has never really gone away. I hope it will soon.

I may do an LDWA event this weekend, as well as the Harden Hard'un next weekend.

Have a good week!

Monday 15 June 2009


So, it's now 8 weeks since my knee operation. My appointment with the surgeon is next week, but I got sick of waiting so I started running last week.

I started off very tentatively with a 3 mile run, which was more painful that expected; pain, both back and front of my knee. I was also pretty shocked at just how tough I found it. All my cardio fitness has gone. It was like I was starting to run again from nothing. I had a tight chest and just general feeling of feeling of finding it hard.

A couple of days later I ran a 6 mile orienteering course in nearby Apedale Country Park. I've never done this before in my life, but I need to sharpen my navigation skills if I get into the Original Mountain Marathon this year. It was very much stop, start, so no extended running effort required. Maybe a half mile at the most between some checkpoints then a minute or so deciding which way I needed to run next, setting the compass and off again. So, it was more like an interval session, which wasn't a bad thing. I managed it ok, and my knee didn't hurt as much. Although a quad stretch causes a lot of pain from the scar tissue still.

I went to Yoga on Tuesday and did fairly well there, and also did my usually strength and stability work on Thursday. I am still putting more effort into the affected leg, trying to build it back up and equalise the muscle mass between the two legs.

On Saturday I decided I'd go for a 10k trail run. I picked a familiar and challenging route, and happily managed to maintain a 10 minute mile pace, despite my lack of fitness and the narrow twisting trail, that also features plenty of ascent. Even fully fit, I probably don't run that route much faster than 8.5 minute mile average anyway. So after that success, this week I am going to do a little speed-work. Nothing gets you fitter faster in my opinion. I'll run tonight, and on Wednesday, probably no more than 3 miles each time, and I'll do perhaps 8 miles on Saturday.

I'd like to take part in the Harden Hard'un again this year. It is a challenging 27 mile course over the Yorkshire moors. Though I realise I won't get anywhere near my time from last year, and may well end up walking a lot more than I wish, I want to do it anyway. Oh, did I mention it is no July 11th, less than 4 weeks away?

So, zero fitness to hill marathon (And yes it is a very hilly course!) in 4 weeks. I can do it right?

I've been busy updating my Beyond Marathon ultramarathon website, to make it look a little more professional. I've added some new features too. Go and check it out, and join the forum. I will be posting forum-member related news (any races you are entering, just done etc). It's nice to be mentioned somewhere sometimes!

Have a good week.

Monday 1 June 2009

Peak Walk

It's now 6 weeks after my knee operation. My knee feels ok, but it is still painful, behind, when at full stretch as I climb stairs. Not sure if this is because it is still healing after the knee op, or if the operation hasn't fully fixed it?

I did an hour in the gym on Tuesday; on the bike and then doing exercises mostly focused on the weaker leg to try and get it built back up to match the right one. After that session I went straight into an hour and a half yoga class. Again I can do most things, but a few exercises are still too painful to attempt, or to hold for too long. I repeated the strength work at the gym the following day, and then didn't exercise again until Saturday. I decided that last weeks 10 mile walk meant that I could go a little further this week, a little ore towards what I would class a long distance walk. We'll find out tomorrow, at Physio, if the therapist agrees with my definition or I end up getting into trouble!

I planned a 16 mile walk in the Peak District. It was a glorious day, the hottest of the year so far, around 26C. I planned the route but didn't pay any attention to how much elevation there was.

I took it relatively easy; a nice steady walking pace, taking photos and not rushing.

Here is a shot not far from the where I parked my car, very close to Gradback Youth Hostel, just after a short climb out of the valley. The photo is looking back down towards the youth hostel. There was a marquee setup and a wedding on there as I returned later. What fantastic weather they had, they really lucked out!

Just over the next hill I got a view over to the hill I would shortly be climbing, shutlingsloe.

It's a steady climb up initially, then a final steep ascent/half scramble to the trig point from where I am pictured below. I decided to shave my hair off the previous night. A slight accident with the clippers meant I had to go a couple of grades shorter than I intended to!

There was then a gently, mostly paved, descent down and into Macclesfield forest. I took this picture looking across to Trentabank Reservoir, and an (overexposed) hill calls Teggs Nose.

It was Teggs Nose I then headed up to next, taking this photo at the top, looking back towards that same reservoir (from the opposite side of course), and back to Shutlingsloe in the far distance.

I then picked up the Gritstone Trail and headed back towards the car. This was an impossible to resist comedy photo opportunity.

I averaged 2.8mph, but me knee felt fine and I wasn't tired at all. I thought there felt to quite a lot of ascent, and when I checked at home, it was 3500ft! So that was a sufficient test for my leg I think.

So, one last physio appointment tomorrow, and then an appointment with the surgeon in 3 weeks time.

I've just launched my new website in case you haven't seen it yet. Go here

Have a good week.