The advantages of spectating

Rob Jebb on IngleboroughI had a cracking day out on Saturday with Elvis. Katie dropped us off at Ribblehead to watch the Three Peaks race which I wasn’t competing in again this year, and the build-up to the leaders of the 740 racers coming through led to an electric atmosphere. When the first few leaders had come through, we ran on to the Hill Inn, then followed the course up to the summit of Ingleborough (Google Earth track here).

My main reason for being there was to give moral and fuel support to Rob Jebb who cycles with me in Team Wheelbase. Rob had won the race for the last three years, but this year’s ‘international’ status of the race (the World Long Distance Mountain Running Challenge for 2008) meant a larger field, more prize money, and more nervy runners! In the end, after a super-fast start to the 24 mile race, Rob finished fourth.

When I helped him on Ingleborough, with a long descent to the finish, I offered him encouragement, knowing that on a long race like that, there was potential to close the time gap:

Dave: “Still lots of time to catch them yet Rob. How are you feeling?”
Rob: “Fucked.”

I ran down to Ingleton after that, dropping my camera twice on the way, but I somehow got away with it. Elvis didn’t like standing about watching runners much, although he did take the opportunity to beg sarnies from spectators whenever the chance arose.

Full results here:

Photos here

Kinder Downfall fell race 2008

My first fell race for ages today was a load of fun in many ways, but also a bit of a release. I haven’t had any competitive outings in any form for three months almost to the day, so whilst I had a lot of mind-rest, I also focused a bit more on today’s Kinder Downfall race a lot more than I’d have liked to. Call it being over competitive, but each time I went out running, I generally thought about being in good shape and giving myself the best shot at the race today.

In the end, it was more a case of ‘business as usual’, with a respectable finish and a slight improvement on my time of last year. In many ways, I just feel relieved that I didn’t let myself down in any way. With a sleet-and-snow induced reduction in the number of starters, my top ten result was nothing to get really excited about, although I’ll openly say I felt great and ran a pretty intelligent pace. Unlike in
last year’s race, whew I ran out of steam (big time) in the last mile or so on the flat, I actually made inroads on the run-in this year, dropping a competitor and making big gains on the one in front. However, after all was done, I just finished in a respectable 12th position and unharmed. If I’ve reached my running peak at 38, I’ll be happy with my lot, to be honest.

Hat’s off to friend Steve Riley on his first fell race of manly distance – his fitness proved a great foundation for a remarkably good first outing and we’ll be seeing more of him in the good end of the results I reckon.

KinderGoogle Earth track of the course in stunning detail here.

Headline results here


Camping trip with Lily to Malham

Malham TarnThe school holidays are a bit to cock this year, meaning that Katie’s and Lily’s Easter holidays don’t match up. It’s led to some creative childcare activity this holiday for Lily which in many ways will be much more fun for her than the prospect of getting on her mum’s heavily pregnant nerves.

Lily and I took advantage of the situation by going camping for a night in Malham. Aside from the predictably good bonding opportunity it afforded, it was actually a really good laugh, start to finish. We had a great bike ride with the trailer bike [View in Google Earth] taking in some bleak but very ridable bridleways and byways, and had a couple of really ace short walks.

We capped off by a quick visit to Settle to see Lily’s great grandparents’ grave on Friday as the weather curtailed the walking, which was also worthwhile and led to lots of good chances to chat about relatives, mortality and all that!

Some fine photos here.

The last weekend in South Zeal

Phil and DaveAs my brother and his family prepare to move up north, it was with mixed emotions that we spent our last stay there over at their house in South Zeal. Mixed, because we’ve had some great times there, as this one was, and we’ll miss it on that score, but the journey back was a killer (getting on for six hours) and the weather wasn’t its usual vintage. Probably not a bad thing – would have been harder to say goodbye to the place in gorgeous spring weather (though I’d love to have given it a try!)

Extended FamilyA lovely bonus was a few hours drop-in visit from cousin Adrian with Dee and Isabel – had a great manic meal with plenty of good banter and it was really nice to see Adrian away from the mountains for a change.

We made the most of the freezing northerlies to get to an indoor play area on Saturday, which was obviously great fun for the children and one grown-up in particular who loves these places. Katie took plenty of opportunities for some good rest, and Phil and I managed to get out on the moor a couple of times for short runs, including a straight-up-and-down-Cawsand run which was very rewarding (see here in Google Earth).

89 photographs are here – a mixture of some from my camera and some taken with Phil’s utterly stunning Nikon D200.

Katie and Helen catching up

Seven Days On – not addiction, but obsession.

Inspired by out-of-season, what-the-heckery, I decided to keep on runnin’ for a week and ditch the rest days. Steve did the same thing a while ago and it got me thinking about whether I’m a bit too precious with rest days. A much improved toe joint (thanks, Glucosomine & Chondroitin) finally meant that I wasn’t getting foot ache after runs, so i thought I’d go and see what kind of ache I could give myself.

So a week’s running, minimum of five miles every day was prescribed by my closest doctor and coach.

Looking back, I don’t think it’s done me any harm at all. I was a bit low on morale when I set off on days 4 and 5 but I think that’s because I’ve always run when I fancied it – this became a mission so I ‘had to’. The injuries stayed away (No injuries? Call myself a runner?) and I feel pretty good. The weather’s been utter cack so I’ve not missed my cycling.

The stats
38 miles, about 30 of them off road – 8,000 feet of ascent and descent, 5,500 calories. I thought it was worth commemorating the occasion with a Google Earth file of all the tracks from the trusty Garmin 305.

The March Mountain trip: Wasdale


For the second year running, the annual trip to the hills organised by my cousin Adrian was based in Wasdale Head. Some pretty dull weather only lifted by the usual good craic that goes on between ten stout fellows. A wonderful time, as usual, peppered with great banter and the odd occasional meaningful chat. The hills are a brilliant place to enable you to do that, especially in a large group of walkers; flitting between people and picking up chats where you left off. The good dose of fresh air also helps the appetite (as if that needed any encouragement) and the yearning for ale.

Adrian in motion
The power cut that gripped upper Wasdale the whole weekend meant that we had to pile into two cars (thanks again, drivers) to take evening sustenance in Netherwasdale, some 5 miles away. What this lacked in convenience, it more than made up for in truly excellent food and home brewed fantastic beer. I even think I got away with fully masking my disappointment at clearly ordering the wrong pudding.

Three things learnt over the weekend, mainly from John:

  1. It’s wise to take knitting needles into public toilets
  2. Check for ants nests before settling down Horton in Ribblesdale hollows.
  3. The tough green bit in the middle of a tomato is a good indicator on manliness

Photos here.

Saturday’s Walk:

View in Google Earth

Sunday’s Walk:

View in Google Earth

Update:Adrian’s photos here.
Adrian’s blog post here.

Gentlemen’s Sojourn: Luckley old us.

Silly SpectaclesFor the first time in ages, I enjoyed a Gentlemen’s weekend away with a group of ten extremely personable and fascinating people. Dippy, an old school friend and an extended network of his friends do this type of thing once or twice per year; it’s a chance to chat, play gentle sport, stroll, eat, watch films, drink, and eat again, in an informal and matey atmosphere. Sort of like a polite stag do for the middle aged.

On top of that, and a lovely innovative touch suggested by mummy of the group, David Bramwell, we all (or most) gave short talks / presentations / led activities, ranging from Chris’s country walk with his guide to identifying native trees, to Pete‘s demonstration of a styptic pencil. Dave B’s Damanhur talk was possibly the one that sticks with me, in that it was a subject I knew absolutely nothing about before.

I also learned at the tender age of 38 to play poker, which now feels like a bit of a life skill and I can’t wait to play again.

I managed to come out of the weekend calorie-neutral by riding to the Manchester train and riding some 62 miles on the Sunday in what clearly felt like spring (even with a mild hangover).

Wally’s cartoon strip of the Saturday meal fallout…
The Gentlemens Sojourn went well

Google Earth file of the walk here from the wonderful Garmin 305 (or see the Google Map below)

Google Earth file of the slightly uninspiring A-Road ride up to Birmingham New Street on Sunday.

Images here (I only had my phone camera – wish I’d taken the proper one as the weather and settings deserved better)

View Larger Map

British Cyclocross Championships 2008

National Cyclocross Team Champions!An enjoyable and ultimately satisfying day… could’ve done better, have done much worse!

I finished 30th in the British Cyclocross Championships today at Sutton Park near Birmingham, and with it helped Team Wheelbase / Gore Bike Wear to their first ever team championship win. It was a nice feeling to go straight to the podium after the finish for our gold medals and be faced with a huge applauding crowd… and then even be pestered for my autograph by a young boy when we climbed down from it (!!?)

Heart Rate graphThe race itself was a fast but technical and ultimately a tough course. The secret to its challenge was the unrelenting and frequent turns which in turn meant frequent and unrelenting accelerations… my thighs held together but it was strange to see a course that held my heart rate above 170 bpm for the whole race and saw an average heart rate of 175 bpm for the hour.

Yes, I’d have liked it much muddier, and yes, I’d like to have had to dismount the bike more than one short ten yard stretch per lap, but I can’t deny it was a good test and a challenging course. (Google Earth map of it here).

The really negative thing for me was losing four places in the last 400 metres, when I unshipped my chain carrying the bike over a set of planks. To have got to that point without any mechanical mishap or riding mistakes then do that was nothing short of irritating. Still… it could have been a snapped chain and more like ten places!

Happy New Year from Eastbourne

Beachy HeadsFor the second year running, we went to stay with our ace and very welcoming mates Rachel and Jon in Eastbourne for New Year. Managed a lovely run with Jon (opens in Google Earth) on New Year’s Eve along the cliffs near Beachy Head, and a great walk on the beach on New Year’s day.

Their new dog, Buzz, is just gorgeous.

Life imitating Google Maps

Google CarpetOscar Wilde said that Life imitates art more than art imitates life.

Here’s a nice thought

At the Royal College of art in London, Robert Sollis has created Google Carpet.  Made from individual carpet tiles, each is a square of 185mm. (This corresponds to one pixel of information on the Google Maps satellite image).

Grizedale Mountainbike Challenge 2007

Wow! I’d forgotten how good that felt. Today was my first Mountain Bike event since… erm.. about 1994. I seem to have got so caught up in other things that use up my time (a lot of which is cycling of one sort or another) that I haven’t got a mountain bike any more.

GMBC - Grizedale Mountainbike Challenge My team mates Lewis and Stuart told me that the Grizedale Mountain bike challenge had to become an essential part of my Three Peaks training, so, always keen to learn from those better than me, I listened. Stuart’s extensive contacts kindly meant that I had loan of a Kona Kula 2-9 - 29erKona Kula 2-9 – £1,500’s worth of hard tail mountain bike with extra big wheels for extra gangly people. It was just beautiful. Having never been paired with this bike, I was naturally a bit worried about tackling the 31 mile loop in drizzly on-and-off rain with what turned out to be 6053 feet of climb and descent (see graph).

Garmin Forerunner 305 outputThe course of the challenge ride itself varies from year to year. The Lake District National Park Authority banned Mountian Bike Racing many years ago, so this is strictly a ‘challenge’ ride, albeit with a timing system and a mass start.

My 37 year old engine takes a while to get going on what turned out to be about 20 minutes of solid climbing, and I wasn’t really into my stride until about half an hour in. I gradually picked off a few people and eventually finished 16th in 2hrs 57. Lewis finished first, waiting a full nine minutes until Barrie Clarke came in behind him. Bodes very well for the three peaks.

I can’t emphasise enough what a great feeling it was to twist and turn on the diving singletrack descents on such a great feeling bike. My legs were missing a few beats from time to time on the steep climbs, but I didn’t panic and kept the bit between my teeth. Almost three hours to complete the course at an average heart rate of 165bpm was great preparation for the three peaks, and I think I’ve left enough time to fine tune the hammering into a bit of form.

View the ride here in Google Earth (recommended!)