Sunday, 31 July 2011

Ponton Plod 2011 (Training Run - not the event)

My running friends from Grantham AC took part in the epic Thunder Run this weekend. Good luck folks I hope you all ran well.

I was aware that my own endurance event is fast approaching in the form of the Bullock Smithy. Although I've run a fair amount this year I haven't done that many long races so I decided to spend Saturday shuffling round 27 miles of the Ponton Plod.  
A couple of cows look after Limerick's field.
It was to be an easy paced run testing out a bit of new kit including a small day sac from Decathlon which has a handy chest pocket just big enough to hold my camera and some new Nike Air Pegasus Shoes.The Ponton Plod is an LDWA event that welcomes runners. In addition to the 27 mile route there are 17 
Orderly Sheep
& 11.5 mile options. The event is run in September, I ran the 27 mile route last year and will probably run again this year if I'm not on holiday. I left Great Ponton village Hall at about 11.30am. It was bright with a cover of cloud, the sun broke through occasionally and I knew if the cloud cleared it would be hot and humid later on.
Stoke Rochford
Hydration is always a challenge in such conditions. I don't like to carry lots of water because of the weight. I had already ripped out the bladder of my knew day sac to create more room. Instead I carried a bit of change and knew that at about half way I'd pass the pub in Saltby where I would take on a few pints of juice which I hoped would see me through the second half. My partner had also agreed to drive out and meet me to pass a bit of food on and so I took my phone so we could arrange a suitable meeting point. The route leaves Great Ponton and runs through, Stoke Rochford - Skillington - Buckminster - Spoxton - Saltby - Croxton Kerrial - Harston - Denton - Denton Reservoir - Harlaxton - Wyville - and back to Great Ponton. It's a well thought out route and to be recommended as an event in September.
Buckminster Water Tower

I ran steadily to Sproxton and on up the track to the water tower. No checkpoint or food to take advantage of today, instead on towards Buckminster passing a busy hen with chicks on the way. By the time I reached the fringes of Sproxton I was looking forward to refreshment at the pub in
Saltby, sadly when I arrived it was closed and I was a bit concerned as I was thirsty. I ran across rutted fields through wood and up an uneven motorcycle track being careful to remember the right turn footpath hidden in the bushes. Soon I arrived at Croxton Kerrial and was happy that the Peacock Pub was open. Slightly embarrassed to walk through the diners in a sweaty bedraggled state I ordered two pints of blackcurrant and stood outside to down them with a bit of wedding cake that I'd taken with me. I filled up my water bottle from the outside tap and shuffled on towards Harston. By now the
A typical path in these parts
sun had come out there were great views across the vale of Belvior and i was running strong rehydrated and fueled and looking forward to the rest of the run. I decided not to phone my partner until I was near the finish.
Denton Reservoir
I ran fast up the track to Denton and on to the Reservoir. There were a few people knocking about making the most of a nice day it was some of the only other people I had seen all day. I ran on to Harlaxton and instead of passing through the village I skirted the boundary and ran on up the hill towards Gorse Lane.I paused briefly to take a shot looking back over Grantham. At Gorse Lane I phoned Tracy as i knew I'd be back in Great Ponton within the hour I was tempted to ask her to meet my at Wyville as the sun was by now intense and I was thirsty. Instead I hoped for an outdoor tap by the village hall, there wasn't one and despite the church being open there was no water in there either. There was a couple of bottles of water on the floor, maybe used to water flowers and although I was tempted I decided to run on. Just after leaving Wyville I met a chap with an angry dog. It looked more 
At the end of another fine run.
an angry lion and he was just about holding on to it. I was glad it was on a lead and I picked up the pace. I ran the last four or so miles fairly fast mostly because I had had enough and was thirsty. I crossed the bridge over the A1 and was met at the Village Hall with a bottle of water, phew! I drenched myself and drank the rest followed by a bag of cherries. The run had taken five hours, I'd hope to do it perhaps an hour faster on race day. The day sac was good, Ill probably use it on the Bullock Smithy. I wasn't overly sold on the shoes and I'll have to give more though to footwear ahead of the BSH.  

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

Wedding Day Run

Photo courtesy of Jeremy Hinks
Just for the record this entry is about my wedding day run. I had always had visions of a 'break of dawn' run across the hills before my wedding but I needed to be first in the barber's queue so the run had to wait until after my post dawn haircut and  my planned route wasn't going to be very hilly!

The night before, I stayed in the Angel and Royal Hotel in Grantham. I didn't get much sleep due to my 'best man' trying to get into my room for 'just one more' drink and a further attempt to lure me back to the bar via the internal room phone some thirty minutes later. I finally went to sleep at about 1.30am. I awoke nervous and apprehensive just before 6am. After a haircut at 7am I was ready to run just before 7.30am. My friends had asked if I was going to do a 'Forest Gump', it was never really on the cards.  

Belton Folly seen on a different day

I left the Angel and Royal in heavy rain and ran through Manthorpe to Belton Village after which I ran along the road up the hills towards Barkston Airfield. By the time I turned East to run across Barkston Heath the rain was driving across the exposed fields of crop. I kept a good pace to keep warm as I was only wearing a vest and shorts and was grateful to reach the shelter of the woods. I soon reappeared by the Belton House folly and took a moments rest to appreciator the view. I was particularly interested to look at the weather movement through the sky. We had booked our wedding in July in the hope of sunshine. Looking across towards the Vale of Belvoir the rain seemed set in for the day, there was a grey cloud as far as the eye could see. I decided to try to not let it spoil the forthcoming wedding. I descended to Five Gates Lane and ran hard towards Londonthorpe Road, on towards Alma Park and through the Sunningdale Estate before hitting Belton Lane back towards the town centre. I was tempted to extend my run. I was running free, relaxed and refreshed by the driving rain. I was aware that the end of my run signalled the start of stress and plenty of it! I knew however that it was time to face the music. Despite my apprehension I was looking forward to the day and so ran back to the hotel.  I was met by my best man who asked "are you off your head?" I quietly remembered that I had been asking him the same question a few hours earlier. With not a moments dignity I took my rain soaked body into the breakfast room to meet some of our guests who by now were eating breakfast. Five hours later I was walking into a church in Rutland in bright sunshine for the start of a fantastic wedding day. My wedding morning run had helped me to relax, focus and refresh me and I was glad I had made the effort to get out of bed. Thanks for coming folks...   

Sunday, 10 July 2011

Notfast 10K - Newark on Trent

The day before the Notfast race I had been run off the road in my car. Traveling through the quaint village of Sproxton on the way back from Oakham another car pulled out in front. The evasive action involved full brake lock and a sharp left turn of the steering wheel. The car slid towards an earth bund and jumped Dukes of Hazard style onto the village green, missing some wooden stakes in the process.Slightly shaken we had escaped unscathed although I was holding the gear stick which was no longer attached to the gear box. The other car had "done one". And so we abandoned the car and set off walking back to Grantham, the start of the weekend's exercise. Some two and a half hours later we arrived at the Gregory in Harlaxton and phoned a taxi.

I awoke at 8am the next morning and wrestled with conscience. I'm not a morning person and will look for any excuse to stay in bed. This morning I had plenty of excuses, I'd have to cycle to Newark and back and race in between, could I be bothered? A car crash the day before, maybe I'd better help my partner retrieve the car, maybe I'd suffer after shock? It was a late night after walking back to Grantham, maybe I needed more rest? I resolved to draw the curtains back and if the sky was grey I'd go back to my slumber for a few more hours shut eye. There wasn't a cloud in the sky.

The cycle to Newark was straightforward through the back lanes via, Barkston, Marston, Hougham, Dry Doddington, Claypole and Balderton before arriving at Newark Rugby Club for the start of the Notfast race. I saw a buzzard soaring high above Marston Moor and was sorry that I didn't have time to stop and watch it. I was thankful to the villager that helped with directions through Marston and I arrived in Newark about an hour after I had set off. The 10k is organised by the Notfast running Club, a club that is open only to 'veterans' aged over 35 which happily means I wouldn't qualify just yet! There are subtle challenges on the Notfast race that make it a little more challenging than a standard 10k. The start and finish is on a grass field which makes it difficult to get into a rhythm at the start and challenges tired legs at the finish. Somewhere after half way there's a gradual incline which tests the resolve and threatens to slow your pace. Despite the challenges its a fairly fast course. It was another humid race and I was glad to finish in 39:43, I worked harder today than I thought I might have to.
The Notfast race is another good value event. The race fee is seven pounds to enter or nine pounds on the day and includes a decent t-shirt. The race is well organised and it's always nice to have access to post race showers. There was no point today, I had to cycle home. At the end of the race my partner texted me a photo of a snake she's found on the road on the way to retrieve the car. Thankfully the gear stick had only popped out of its clutch. I must have been holding too tightly as I braced for impact. The breakdown service were able to pop it back in. All's well that end's well, no cost, phew!      

NB) Ive added a post below about an ascent of Mount Misen in Japan, didn't have time to do it at the time...

Sunday, 3 July 2011

Peakers' Stroll 2011 - 25 Miles - Peak District

Peak Forest nestles in the midday sun
"Mad dogs and English men go out in the midday sun". And so we did. Accompanied by some mad Englishwomen. We headed out of Peak Forest on the High Peak in bright sunshine with a refreshing breeze which provided brief but welcome relief from the humidty.

This is an event I look forward to. I suspect I have run it five or so times. The event provides good training for longer challenges and involves a fair amount of climb which is important to a runner now living in a flat area. 

After leaving Peak Forest the run heads towards Mam Tor and the first climb off the day. Passing Mam Tor runners head across the Great Ridge to Loosehill before a steep descent towards Hope. Checkpoint 2 provides welcome hydration ahead of the stiff climb to the summit of Win Hill. The views from the summit are spectacular. Off Win Hill the legs are tested as we leap through the bracken in the direction of the wood towards Ladybower reservoir. Ladybower was used by RAF 617 squadron to practice low level flying techniques ahead of the bouncing bomb raids to German dams.

Home - 3:41:00
Past experience makes me wary of the line through the woods. A footstep too left or right can mean you miss the third checkpoint. Thankfully this year I'm accompanied by a fellow entrant who confirms the path and we land at checkpoint 3 as planned. After checkpoint 3 the route follows the reservoir for approximately 3 miles and I manage to run strong. The heat is taking its toll and its tempting to dive in the wide expanse of blue water. A short while later its checkpoint 4 and the first energy powder. I drink a lot when its as hot as it was today but prefer to mix the odd energy drink with plain water. This year I take a different ascent through the woods and on to Jaggers Clough. Luck more than judgement brings me out where I need to be and I head on with renewed enthusiasm. 
A fine spread
At Jaggers Clough its time to dip my head band in the cold stream and immerse myself with water. It was very hot today and I felt the heat particularly between Jagger's Clough and Edale. From Jaggers the route contours the lower flanks of the magnificent Kinder Scout towards Edale and the penultimate checkpoint before the finish. I was still running strong with perhaps eight miles left to go but I knew there was a stiff climb to the top of Hollins Cross, a descent to Castleton before the final long drag up Cave Dale and down Oxlow Rake. I'm well acquainted with Cave Dale having run up there many times on other events. I felt strong in the final miles which is encouraging. I knew there were two folks ahead but couldn't make in roads on them. In the event I finished in 3 hours 41 minutes in third position. 42 runners set off at 11.30am. There were 110ish walkers that had left at 9am, many of whom I passed on route. Approaching the summit of Win Hill I passed a lady that enters (and finishes) every year. Now in her 70's it was inspirational to see her romp up possibly the toughest assent of the day. I hope I'm still participating at that age, brilliant! 

The Peakers Stroll is a highlight of the running year. A great value event. In 2011 it cost less than ten pounds to enter and for that you can take part in a 25, 17 or 9 mile walk or run. A good quality certificate is given to each finisher and every entrant is treated to either soup or ploughman's and an assault on the home made cakes. A fantastic day out enjoying some of the best views of the dark and white peak district, running with friends in glorious sunshine, perfect.