Tour of Tameside Race 2: Hell on the Fell

Race: Hell on the Fell (6 miles)

Date: 16/06/17

Location: Stalybridge

Finish Time: 01:01:51

First thing to say is that race number two in the Tour of Tameside is not an actual fell race.  It was about 3.5 miles of up hill on road. Then a mix of lanes, tracks and fields with a  bit of steep technical downhill terrain for the last mile. So that’s 5 miles up and 1 mile down!

After getting a 10k PB the night before my legs were feeling surprisingly good before the race.  I didn’t take the Friday off work, instead getting the train straight to Stalybridge after work and walking a mile or so up to the race start from the station.  Another good venue for the race, making use of a local leisure centre, meaning good toilets beforehand (although the actual start line was 10 mins walk away from the leisure centre).

It was a strange race due to the mixed terrain and it all passed in a bit of blur to be honest. I remember some angry car drivers during the road section shouting abuse at us for daring to be using the road. I’m not sure if it was meant to be closed roads or not, but there were lots of cars out intent on getting to where they wanted despite all the runners. Motorists aside, there was good support out along the pavements from pedestrians.  The road section was relentless up and up and up some more. So it was wonderful to hit the trail section, even if that was still going up.

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The downhill finish was my favourite and I was able to over take a few people on this section to make up for my slow road running. I’d been warned the night before my other runners that this was the worst bit of the whole event.  Definitely not that bad! Tour of Tameside is more of a road event so I think a lot of people do find the steep technical downhill quite difficult however I was in my element and went flying down. Or at least I felt like I was flying.

Starting to think I should be brave and enter an actual fell race.

 

Tour of Tameside Race

Race X-Trail 10K

Date: 15/06/17

Location: Ashton-Under-Lyne

Finish Time: 00:53:20

Day one of the Tour of Tameside. After a day at work quietly fretting about the challenges ahead, I ended up arriving at race HQ ridiculously early after over estimating the amount of time the bus would take but thankfully so did lots of other keen people.  At least I had somewhere indoors to wait.  A race HQ with a proper building is always good. Somewhere warm to wait with seats, and proper toilets with hot water are a welcome sight at races.

The race took place in two country parks, mainly on proper footpaths.  I didn’t know the route though so opted for trail shoes to be prepared. Error! Most of the run was on hard paths and even the bits in the woods were very dry. My Saucony Peregrines are an ok choice of shoe for hard trails but my dodgy foot was hurting before we even reached halfway. But I will save the story of sesamoiditis for another day. I was trying my best not to worry too much about potential damage whilst running  and thankfully there hasn’t been any lasting pain or discomfort.

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It was a warm, humid evening but pleasant enough for running. A little rain shower provided some nice relief halfway round. It was a nice little route, a couple of steep hills early and only one short out and back section. The killer though was the slightly evil surprise of lots of steps to run up in the woods towards the end. I feel even happier with my massive PB taking those into account.

Afterwards it was back to the race HQ at a local rugby club to quench our thirst at the pop up bar from Tweed Brewery. We athletes take our post race hydration seriously! Then home for a late night supper of cheese, bread and oven chips before bed. I might have done a little bit of stretching too once I remembered that it would be helpful.

Round Sheffield Run

I’ll get back to writing up Tour of Tameside soon but first I want to share my most recent race experience.

No idea why I thought that was a good idea to sign up for a race, one week after a four day event, but everyone else was and it sounded like fun. It probably should have been fun, however in hindsight I was a little too broken to enjoy the experience fully.

Sunday morning we set off early in the gloomy low cloud and drizzle to drive over to Sheffield. Not a view to be had over Snake Pass so spirits were damp as the weather looked awful until we reached the suburbs of Sheffield.  This was not a race I wanted to run in wet and cold conditions due to its unusal format.

Described as a multi-stage trail running endurance race, it was about 15 miles off road round the trails of Sheffield however broken up into stages. The running part was about 20km and the total distance about 24km.  Lovely trails and lots of hills. I used to live in that part of Sheffield but never realised there were so many wonderful trails.

11 timed stages with unique character totalling 20km of great trails & Parkland.

 

9 liason stages in between timed stages that allow recovery – 100m-750m in length

 

600m of total vertical elevation

 

Such a great concept however one I really struggled with. I’m a slow plodder. I enjoy running at a steady pace and I’m good at it. Running for short bursts of no more than 2.8km, and then stopping for a walk was more challenging than you would expect.

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Amazing views over Sheffield and beyond…

I found it hard to work out how to pace myself and definitely went off too quick at the start. It was difficult to work out what to do with the recovery stages. Some had more time allowed than others, and if you stayed too long there was a time penalty. I didn’t use all my allocated time for these and often started again straight away, even at the food station with a 15 minute time allowance.  I think this was partly just wanting to get it over with and partly not wanting my legs to seize up.  I messed up my timing on my Garmin as I couldn’t decide whether to record the recovery stages or pause my watch. I also forgot to change my watch from miles to kilometres so had no idea how far I was running.

The organisation of the event was fantastic. Friendly marshalls and a good pre and post race set up.  At the start and end of each timed section, we had to use a timing device to clock in and out. Sounds complicated but it was really simple in reality.  Over the finish line and straight to the timing tent for a print out of the results. Very impressive.

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My total running time was 01:55:22 and I spent just under a hour on the recovery stages. Pretty pleased with that off the back of Tour of Tameside.

Tour of Tameside 2017

Today I finished the apparently iconic Tour of Tameside. I’d never heard of it until last year when running club people put themselves through four days of racing, and I thought they were a bit mad and very brave.  I have since learnt this race has a long history, founded by the legend that is Dr Ron Hill in the 80s, and relaunched in 2015.

As it is a local event I couldn’t let the opportunity to run it pass by.  I must have been keen in signing up as I was number 84 out 300 and something running numbers. I didn’t know what I was letting myself in for. The event is a multi-stage event over four day, totally 32 miles on trail and road.

  • Thursday night – X-Trail 10k around two country parks in Ashton-Under-Lyne
  • Friday night – Hell on the Fell 6 mile race (a mix of road and fell) in Stalybridge
  • Saturday morning – Hero Half Marathon along the Longdendale Trail from Hadfield and back again.
  • Sunday morning – The Dr Ron Hyde 7 road race

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I’m going to write about each race separately as a full race report but for now these are my overall reflections after a gruelling and emotional few days.  Looking at the overall results I came 8th out of 23 finishers in my age category across the four races with a total time of 05:24:49. I gave it my all and I’m made up with that as a result.

I’ve learnt a lot about how amazing the human body is and what it can achieve if you really want to go running day after day.  I don’t think I have ever run for four days in a row before and certainly not at the intensity of four races in a row.  But I did it and at times it wasn’t as awful as I had feared. Even after Friday night when my back was seized up and I definitely did not want to get out of bed.

I already knew the running community is great. But seriously, people are amazing. The running community is amazing.

Thank you to all my fellow Greyhounds, and others from local clubs, taking part in the full tour or the individual events. Without those wonderful people the experience would have been a lonely affair. Thank you for the generous offer of lifts to and from the more difficult to get to races saving me the stress of ridiculous public transport journeys.

Thank you to the Greyhounds out and about around the course for each race to cheer us on. Seeing friendly faces pop up in the most unexpected (and sometimes remote of locations) was such a boost.  When you are battling up a never-ending hill and look up to supportive faces cheering you on, it really does help. And believe me, the Tour of Tameside has more than it’s share of seemingly never-ending hills.

Thank you to the random strangers running the race that became friendly faces over the course of the four days. Thank you to those who were there when some run chat distractions were needed, and thank you to those who were there to keep me going at a good pace rather than fading to a stop. Thank you to those who remember your face or your running vest and offer words of encouragement when passing by each other during a race.

Events like the Tour of Tameside really go to show how many fantastic people there are in running.

I’ve learnt a lot about myself as a runner and as a person doing this event. I know that I am capable of more than I previously believed.  It was exhausting and there were some very low moments (half marathon I’m looking at you!) but also some big highs.  I managed to get a PB in the 10k. An all time PB on a hilly trail course! I learnt that I can run in hot weather and survive. I have also leant that deep freeze gel is essential, as is booking time off work if possible.

Right now I’m actually feeling ok physically. It is more the emotional toll of back to back races. Now it is celebration time.

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Dovestone Diamond 2017

Race:Dovestone Diamond
Location: Greenfield, Saddleworth
Distance: 6 ish miles (who really knows with trail!)
Time: 58:48

 

It’s a popular one. This year it sold out in about 12 hours. It is organised by my running club and last year I marshalled it, so was pleased to get a place on the start line this year.

I was extremely nervous. Possibly because it was a local race with so many runners from the Greyhounds were either running or marshalling and partly due to it being my evening race since last year. Also despite being on my local turf I hadn’t actually run the entire route, only sections of it and some of those not for a long time.  So I told myself I was just going out for a little run and nothing else mattered whilst secretly hoping I would be able to pull off a good performance.

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I love the terrain covered by this route.  Rough lanes and rocky paths, boggy fields and muddy woodland in the first half, with a nice fast second half around the reservoir.

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It was a slow start due to narrow paths and people walking up hills however I didn’t mind as the first half of the race has most of the climbing, and the toughest terrain. Saved my legs from going off too hard, and meant I could put in a good second half.  Definitely shows in my splits. Once we hit the good paths at 3k a lot of people seem to have run out of steam.

Mile 1: 12:16 /mi
Mile 2: 11:43 /mi
Mile 3: 10:07 /mi
Mile 4: 8:11 /mi
Mile 5: 8:19 /mi
Mile 6: 7:46 /mi

I’m proud of that effort. The first half of the run has a lot of tricky terrain, steep hills and stiles to climb over, so for me that is a fast off road pace.

I owe a lot of thanks to someone from my running club who was carrying an injury and decided to run the last couple of km’s with me and share wise words of advice on form and technique. I doubt I would have managed those splits towards the end without words of encouragement.  It was most definitely a lesson in the meaning of digging deep and pushing through the pain.

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Half a mile to go. Still smiling despite wanting it to be OVER!

If the race goes ahead again next year, do sign up. It’s a great race. Plus the race HQ  is at a brewery so plenty of good local ales to drink and there is usually a pizza oven for post race food too.  Even though I won’t be living round here next year I will definitely be getting the train over from Yorkshire for it.

Bluebell Trail 2017 – I Trooped the Trooper

Race: Bluebell Trail 10 mile
Location: Hilly Halifax
Date: Sunday 7th May 2017
Finish Time: 01:51:07

A sunny Sunday morning in May and early start for the trek over to Yorkshire for us Greenfield Greyhounds. Having not raced since January I was nervous about this one. I even struggled to get my porridge eaten thanks to pre-race nerves. Telling myself it was ‘only a training run’ was not good. I definitely secretly wanted to put in a good attempt at this one having not raced much this year.

Hosted by the Stainland Lions running club, it was a fantastic race. Brilliant marshalls, lovely route and great facilities. It’s always nice to have proper changing rooms to get ready in and proper toilets.

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The route can be described as undulating Yorkshire style. Meaning the up hill bits feel like mountains.  Starting somewhere south of Halifax there is a little bit of running around some woodland before joining the canal and following the Hebble Trail towards Halifax. Then comes Trooper Lane. A hill so horrible that everyone around me was walking up it. Reassuring when everyone decides to walk.  Then some undulating off road running through fields and bluebell filled woodland.  The end of the race is a real treat with the River Calder to run through before the finish line.

I was very pleased with managing fairly consistent pacing on this run considering I’ve not raced for a while. And all the hills! There were a lot of bottlenecks in the first mile or so, with narrow paths and people walking up hills so my start was slow.  This probably helped later on but I found it frustrating and couldn’t get into my stride. I should have started further up the field as I was near the pack and couldn’t overtake slower runners and walkers. But as I say, probably helped in the long run. My mountain walking experience meant I could power walk my way tp Trooper Lane for one thing.  The river crossing at the end was so much fun. Cold but fun. Big thanks to the strong volunteers on hand to drag me ready to out of the river.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hills, Hills and More Hills.

As I’m running Snowdonia for my marathon race this year I’ve started to step up the hill training. A lovely email popped up in my inbox…

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24 weeks until the Snowdonia Marathon. I guess that is now 23 weeks so I should probably start to get my mind focused on marathon training.  Right now though I’m not in the mood for training plans or hitting targets or any of that. I just want running to be fun and to do whatever I feel like doing, whether that be trails or fells or even a bit of road.

So for the moment I’m just going to focus on running hills. Lots of hills.

Hills are tough. Running up hills results in legs of jelly and lungs at bursting point. However the feeling once you reach the top is awesome.  Going up hill is a tough mental and physical battle, but for me cresting over that hill feels fantastic.  Especially if there is a good view. Everyone should enjoy a good view.

My most recent runs are below. All quite hilly, as evidenced by the hill profiles.

We did a bank holiday run up Shuttlingsloe near Maccessfield which was a killer but worth it for the views. I finally ran up the big hill I can see from my office window everyday at work and I had a wonderful Sunday plod up and down the hilly moorland paths above Marsden.

I’m aware that my approach to hill training is currently a bit one-dimensional and so next time someone suggests hill reps or a hill pyramid session for my running group, I will actually turn up.  Finding interesting looking hills and then running up them seems to be doing me some good and improving my running.

Bring on the views from the top of the hills!

What a difference a month makes

Last month I wrote about my very low iron levels. I’ve been taking iron tablets twice a day for a month now and I am certainly noticing a difference. My mileage is up, and my pace is slowly increasing. Most importantly I have managed to start enjoying running again. A month ago I was not in a good place with running. It was frustrating. I felt completely rubbish physically and mentally.  I’m very glad I didn’t have a race packed spring season lined up for once.

Progress has been gradual and I think I have some way to go before I’m back to full fitness. However I finally managed to beat my Birkenhead parkrun PB that I set last July! I’ve also been running hills much more easily in terms of my breathing.  Before starting on the iron, I was increasingly getting out of breath, and have noticed a difference there already.

I am booked in for a repeat blood test this week to check if the iron tablets are helping. They most definitely are but will be interesting to find out how much my ferritin levels have gone up.  Fingers crossed for good results!

In need of some iron

I’m officially suffering from anemia and it is rubbish.

Running has not been going well recently. I’ve felt slow and tired ever since my half marathon in January, at first I put it down to winter and running a hard race, then I put it down to losing fitness due to injury. However after feeling out of breath the whole way round parkrun last month, I started to think that perhaps I needed to get checked out.

A blood test later and the results are in. Low iron stores. So now I’ve started taking iron tablets and the doctor has ordered me to rest (just don’t tell him I went up a big Scottish mountain last week). Not that I feel like running anyway. Being anemic is one thing and the side effects of the tablets is another. Hello nausea. It’s lazy evenings watching tv for me this week.

Hopefully the iron tablets will take effect soon and I’ll be gaining PBs all over the place.  Fingers crossed.

Running Adventures in the Yorkshire Dale

This weekend was a long weekend in the Yorkshire Dales, a part of the country I have never visited before. It was a wonderful weekend of running on fells and trails and relaxing by a log fire, in the Yorkshire Dales. I can’t remember what I used to do on holiday before running dominated all holiday plans.

Public transport is very limited in this part of the world, much more so than Snowdonia or the Lake District. I can’t drive and we don’t have a car so running was the perfect way to go further than if we were walking.  We stayed in Settle which is accessible by train, on the famous Settle-Carlisle railway, and it proved to be the perfect base for challenging runs.

Malham Cove and Goredale Scar are fairly close to Settle but not easily accessible by public transport (although there is a bus from Skipton which we used to get back to the railway and on to our base).  Following the Settle Loop route which is part of the Pennine Bridleway, the run involved rough tracks and lots and lots of mud. We ran over the Bridleway, then dropped down to the top of Malham Cove, ran across to Goredale, then back along the river into Malham finishing with a view of Malham Cove from below.

My navigation skills were a bit off at the start, so we ended up doing a couple of miles of proper fell running to get to the lanes and bridle path. Definitely more fun than starting with a couple of miles of lanes though. Starting at around 500ft and climbing to 1200ft within the first mile was tough. Especially as the steepest part of that was up a muddy grassy hill slope (what did I say about fells being more fun than lanes?!). My lungs and legs felt ready to explode.

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Struggling up the very long hill…

There was snow on the tops between Settle and Malham too. Bitterly cold so very glad for all my warm layers. Despite having a rucksack full of warm layers to put on at the pub for the journey back, I realised I’d forgotten clean dry socks. Must always remember fresh socks.

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Still going up!

Navigational errors also resulted in a pointless run up a hill with a 14% gradient warning sign. Malham Cove was stunning, although the limestone rocks were horrible to walk on in my Saucony Peregrine trail shoes. Goredale Scar was beautiful too.

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Goredale Scar. Still a couple more miles to run.

I attempted to record the run on my Garmin but there was so much stopping and starting, for map reading, rests, and to take photos of the amazing scenery, that it kept going into power save mode. So I’ve plotted the route very roughly. It works out somewhere around 12 miles with 2240ft of hills. I am trying not to care about time or pace and just enjoy it. After all it was a run about challenging myself to different terrain and taking in the fantastic scenery. Walking to Malham and Goredale Scar would have been a very long day, whereas we fitted in all the sights and a pub trip within the space of 4 hours!

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View the route on Plotaroute.com