Ali's been out and about
A 23mile, 50km and 50m all in the space of 20 days in June!!!
Mountain Yomp 7th/ 1st V45
Keswick 50k was 14th/ 3rd V45
Pennine Barrier 15th=/ 1st V45
Race report: 36th Mountain Yomp 23m 4200ft fell race – Kirkby Stephen 3/6/18
Running the ‘Mountain Yomp’ was a bit of a last minute decision – 6.30pm the night before, meaning a very early start to get to registration for 8am in Cumbria…..
Thick cloud, and clag on the tops as I drove over didn’t bode well, given I had no idea of the race route and hadn’t set foot on any single one of the fells before. I think that’s called race prep….. oh, and as for slotting a race into ‘taper week’ 7days before the Keswick 50k ultra….mmmmm……we shall see….
Registration at the school was perfectly organised as you’d expect of a race that’s been in existence for 36 years and as the start approached runners started to mingle near to the first checkpoint with ‘dibbers’ poised (there were 12 checkpoints at which you had to ‘dib’ an electronic tag).
The start was staggered so you could set off from 9am, I chose (aka toilet break no.4) to allow 5-10 minutes to elapse so at least I had a trail of runners to follow across the fell for route finding (and to chase), and the race tactic was to try and keep it steady as a tester for Keswick next Sunday. I needn’t have worried about route finding – it was a doddle – with canes and markers about every 100m and at changes in direction, the clouds cleared, so the views and visibility was stupendous – looking out to the Lakeland fells on one side and the Yorkshire Dales to the other.
After clearing the main street of Kirkby Stephen and a mile or so of farm tracks it was onto the moors, underfoot being comprised completely of….moor….. no tracks or nice gravel up here, just grasses, heather, reeds, moss, tussocks and a few swampy bits for good measure, lots of rocky bits, and some more tussocks…...
The plan of following the first wave of runners was playing out nicely, and for the first 7 miles (of climb) up the considerable summits of ‘Little’ Fell and then Wild Boar Fell it was a nice game of chase. By mile 8, I was completely on my own, no footprints to follow and the pressure was always going to be on from the runners who ‘dibbed’ after me and were now the chasers….it’s a strange place to be, out front.
The terrain and underfoot was pretty much consistently ‘moor’ throughout, with a great welcome at every one of the checkpoints/water stations - most of them on exposed fell tops, manned by volunteers and mountain rescue. Although my favourite was a cattle trailer with 3 farmers in flat caps on sun loungers, one of who just pointed in the general direction of the refreshments with his thumb and said ‘water’. Class!
6 more fell tops came and went in quick succession – Swarth Fell Pike, Hugh Seat, Gregory Chapel, Black Fell and High Pike, before the last bugger of a climb up 9 Standards Rigg and then the long descent (kept telling myself – its just a parkrun left!) back to the start, at this point joining the runners who had opted for the 11 mile version, through a few twists and turns in the edge of Kirkby Stephen and back to the school for copious tea and biscuits.
Well pleased with a 7th overall (and 1st V45) in the end out of 145, in 3:44:59
Keswick Mountain Festival 50km Ultra
It’s entirely Tim’s fault. He made me enter. It's only 2 weeks until my target race – The Pennine Barrier (‘50ish’ miles). It’ll be a good test of kit, strategy, fuelling and on similar terrain he said. It’ll be a laugh he said……(mental note.....must unfriend Tim on facebook ??)
Friday night and we’re travelling up to Keswick, Saturday dawns and its roasting hot, ambling around the Mountain Festival site signing up to websites, multiple visits to the 'Wines of new Zealand' stand, some tomfoolery on the canoeing stand and getting a stack full of freebies – after all what fool doesn’t want a ‘Visit Andorra’ sweatband set or an Arnold Clarke yellow plastic poncho & sunglasses combo?
Watching the open water swimmers drag themselves through the shoreline mud (aka mostly goose poop) and then cheering the 5k and 25k trail runners as they set off like the clappers – we made a promise that neither Tim or me would set off on the 50k at that pace……
Saturday night – final kit check, lay everything out in the order it goes on (including the vaseline), set 3 alarm clocks.
Sunday morning, 5am, fuelled by the previous night’s excellent scampi (the food of champions), dressed and greased, its off on the 5 minute easy stroll across to the festival site at Crow Park…..and the realisation its 5.30am and its bloody roasting hot. The mountains in the distance sat in a tropical haze and not a breath of wind. The race briefing was thankfully very short (i.e. put lots of suncream on. Now!).
The race countdown started, 1 minute left, so I go and rock up on the front row of the starting grid with the big boys (Tim sensibly stayed in mid pack) and ‘cus the official photographer was taking snaps. (Media tart moment) I think we made a promise that neither Tim or me would set off on the 50k at 5k pace…… well, I’d had a change of plan…… go out like a tw*t with the really fast lads whilst it’s still cool and avoid the worst of the days heat.
Well that worked for the first 1½ miles and 1000ft, til I was on top of Walla Crag in full sun. Unfortunately the race photographers were there as well, drone filming – following me for several hundred metres, so had to put some effort in for the camera. (Media tart).
Ashness Bridge (another media tart moment) , Surprise view, and the riverside path (aka loose collection of boulders and outcrops) to Watendlath brought up the first 10k then up and over Grange fell, heading for Checkpoint 1 at Rosthwaite in Borrowdale, with the chance to refill with another litre of water/some red sport drink to get me to Honister Pass. Given the heat, the plan was to get at least a litre down between checkpoints, given I was estimating to be running at 30mpg (ie 150ml of sweat per mile) at the same time slurping in a gel.
Up Borrowdale was lovely – in the shade of the oakwoods with cuckoos cuckooing and green woodpeckers yaffling. The pleasure before the pain (part 1)…all too soon and it’s the biggy, climbing up Honister Pass to the slate mine and checkpoint 2 (banana and another litre of some red). The 1500ft climb continued straight up onto the shoulder of Fleetwith Pike (media tart moment), with astounding views of Great Gable and Haystacks to the west. Coming off Fleetwith, the path may drop 1000ft down, but given that’s in the space of under ½ mile you get an idea how steep it really is….its slower than going up.
After not dying on the descent, Buttermere and Crummack water shimmered away in front – the next part of the race through to mile 20ish and checkpoint 3. Wham! The heat on this section was incredible, with waves of hot air descending off the fell and sun reflecting off the lake and not a breeze or any shade to be had. Talking with runners afterwards – this was the section that really started to soften you up big time.
Checkpoint 3 – another litre of red stuff and fresh orange wedges (heaven!!) before heading off towards Rannerdale . At this point I could see Tim on the opposite side of the lake, running through hell and getting properly softened up! Checkpoint 4 at the bottom of Rannerdale – another litre of red please! They did mention that there was a deep pool in Mill Beck coming up. I was straight in up to my waist and plunged head in, ready for the 1500ft climb up to the col below the mountains of Sail and Crag Hill at 26 miles – that’s called putting the boot in!
At this point with the heat and climb the last thing anyone needed was for horsefly swarms. After swatting, flapping, swiping, and thwacking to no effect, I resorted to giving them a stern talking to. ‘Look you worthless f*****s I need all this blood, it’s inside me for a good reason’. I may have become delirious.
Checkpoint 5 marshall….‘what do you need?’ ‘Ali waves arm in the general direction of drinks table whilst staggering sideways’ as it turned out it was another litre of red.
Half a mile of tarmac over to Little Town at the foot of Catbells felt so nice. At least from here you can see Dewentwater, Portinscale and Keswick in the distance, and just 2 parkruns left….. pick up the pace and try and keep up with the tail enders of the 10k run, as the two races converged as I rounded Catbells, over the river, into Keswick, come on come on keep going, I can hear the announcer at the finish line – there’s Louise!! 100 yards left! (uphill!) and finish line in just over 6 hours, 14th overall and 3rd V45 (finish line media tart moment) before my last litre of red for the day.
Ali Nash 6:04:53
Tim Forster 6:58:42
What a day – superbly organised, marshalled and flagged. Get out there and go fell running. Other shorter races are available.
Pennine Barrier 50m
How hard is it to run an ultra......? Bloody hard. But if you're sitting comfortably let me tell you about it...... The Pennine Barrier Ultra.....50 miles & 8500ft including 4 of the Yorkshire 3 Peaks....(Penyghent twice)
This was one of my target races for 2018, with lots and lots of miles and climbing factored into the training schedule over the past 6 months, heat training in a tree suit at London Marathon and in June both the 23m Mountain Yomp fell race and the 33m Keswick Mountain Festival ultra as 'sharpeners' as Will Kerr would say.
Hydration and nutrition planned in minute detail (1 litre & 400 cals per 8 miles on top of a 4am belly bustin' 2000cal crumpet and peanut butter breakfast)......it was off to Malham ready for a 5.40 race briefing, which was mainly 'slap on the suncream and wear a hat' as well as the chaff briefing...... 'thoroughly grease all moving parts' not forgetting the vitally important 'thoroughly grease all stationary parts next to moving parts' Almost a full tub of vaseline later I slid over to the start line and joined the good natured banter and shared out some of my personal midge cloud with fellow competitors.
6am, warm and with a gentle westerly, the first mile took you through Malham and straight up the steps ascending Malham Cove, across the limestone pavement and away up Watlowes valley to Malham Tarn. By the top of the cove I'd teamed up with Andy Smith, another 50mile debutant from Huddersfield, little did we know that almost 10 hours later we'd cross the finish line together. Bromance. Climbing away from the Tarn, its up Fountains Fell, (at this point already muttering how much I hate rocky paths) from the top at mile 10 loomed the hulking profile of Penyghent.
Checkpoint 1 between the two, was a simple litre top up of water and Tailwind powder (other products are available, but if the CEO of Tailwind sees this - I am available for sponsorship.....) passing the ever cheerful Rachel Barnes/Boyd and another 2 miles of climb, negotiating the hoards of '3 peakers' saw us to the top. The long, rough, uppy downy route across to Ribblehead brought us to checkpoint 2, more fluid (and Tailwind - did I say how good this stuff is ?) and the ascent of Whernside.
The mountain to start the 'softening up process....' hitting the trig at around marathon distance. That rocky descent off Whernside is bloody diabolical, good job the next checkpoint at Hill Inn wasn't far off - discovering fresh pineapple chunks taste like heaven after 5 hours of gels (did I say how good Tailwind tastes?)
Ingleborough.....the 'destroyer of souls......' never, never, never, never ever look up before starting that north face ascent.....too late..... Andy just said 'Ali - I've just looked up...... oh for f###$ sake.....' an hour later we were finally heading downwards for the 4 miles to Horton. Rough underfoot just isn't the word for it, and I had a sneaking suspicion something nasty and slightly mushy was happening to my big toenail...... (it was....very... and involved needles, scissors and spurting later that evening).
At the Horton checkpoint we discovered the delights of watermelon slices - oh the joy! (the tailwind was still going down, 400 cal per 1/2 litre by now). Andy did it again and looked up at Penyghent as we ascended for a second time..... 'Ali - I've just looked up.......its doing that steep thing again.....'
Deja vu struck yet again on Fountains Fell..... but at least we had sight of Malham Tarn - just the matter of a final 10 miles, and going by my somewhat shaky maths at this point, we were still on for a sub-10 hour finish, although pushing the heady speeds of 11:30 miling we were far from guaranteed..... approaching Gordale and Janets Foss, the lure of an ice cream was tempting, as was jumping in the river.
....just 2 miles left....I think we both said out loud 'I'd like this to stop now......' both watches had run out of juice so we had no idea what time we were on, but coming into Malham, the first dulcet tones I hear are Dame Rachel Parker 'for ####$ sake Nash you slacker, get running!' followed up by some supportive cheering from Louise, 100 yards left and those two took off at a sprint to get the finish line photos as me and Andy came in arms aloft for =15th (and 1st V45) in 9hrs 58mins. Gold finishers medal and some soup. Result!