Wild Running Review

Wild Running: “The ultimate guide to running the hills, dales and vales of Britain”

Wild Running book

Wild Running

Wild Running is the first running guidebook of its kind detailing some 150 routes ranging from Land’s End to as far north as Shetland.

Written by Jen and Sim Benson, two runners with a passion for the outdoors and a wealth of experience including ultra marathons and wilderness expeditions, the book is packed with beautiful photos, descriptions about each region and advice for those less familiar with running in wild places.

Each route listed gives information on length, ascent, terrain, difficulty and how easy it is to navigate.  A link to the Wild Running website www.wildrunning.net gives access to O.S. maps, route profiles and allows you to download detailed route directions and a GPX file of each run.

Informative and inspiring, the book is ideal for planning a day trip, a running holiday or simply flicking through as a coffee table book. Wild Running should be on every trail and fell runner’s bookshelf.

Spectacular Snowdonia

This year I’ve been lucky to experience some spectacular mountain running days in Snowdonia.

Time spent preparing for, supporting others on and completing the Paddy Buckley Round meant lots of trips to North Wales and fortunately some stunning days out in the hills.

These images are what inspire me to go mountain running:

2014-03-07 13.17.55 2014-03-07 15.17.55 2014-04-11 11.56.23 2014-04-15 11.00.59 Siabodleg5 #32014-07-11 20.37.54 2014-07-11 20.56.12 2014-07-11 20.56.21 night leg

This video shows a magical summer evening view I experienced whilst running:

fell running guide logo

Paddy Buckley Round

The Paddy Buckley Round covers 61 miles and ascends around 28,000ft as it crosses 47 peaks of North Wales.

Moel Siabod leg in beautiful weather

Moel Siabod leg in beautiful weather

As well as the obvious investment of time spent training to get fit for the challenge it also requires a large amount of planning in terms of route choice, (it can be started anywhere unlike the Bob Graham Round which always begins in Keswick) equipment, food and support crew.

Planning the route:

The Paddy Buckley can be broken into 5 main legs, each finishing at road crossings where support can be accessed. I chose to run on a 23.30 hr schedule starting at 11am from Capel Curig, the idea being to get the longest and arguably most complex navigation leg over whilst I was fresh.  The 11am start meant that if I was on schedule I would be into the Snowdon leg as it went dark and would see dawn as I approached the Glyders.

Getting to know the route is important and so I made a number of visits to Wales paying particular attention to the section between Moel Siabod and the Moelwyns which features a number of knolls that have to be visited.  This part of the route is also particularly boggy and knowing the least wet line can save time and energy.  I also carefully reccied the Elidir’s section including the line to Mynydd Perfedd as I knew I would be running this in the dark.

I also chose to have support at the old quarries at Croesor where friends would walk in with more water and a little food.

Planning the kit:

kit for Paddy Buckley Round

do I really need all this?

One thing I found really difficult was deciding what kit to take: bottle or bladder? bumbag or back-pack? waterproof or windproof or both?  The weather is obviously an important factor and so with a hot, dry forecast I opted for an Inov-8 race pac4 with a 1 litre bladder that I would refill at the end of each leg.  I carried a Montane Minimus waterproof smock and Featherlite windproof bottoms.  I also had a dry bag containing my emergency kit consisting of OMM Rotor Smock, hat and gloves plus spare torch batteries, plasters, bog roll and paracetamol (thankfully the bag remained unopened!).  For the last couple of legs I swapped the sack for a small Inov-8 bumbag.

hot sun and steep hills

hot sun and steep hills – race pac and bladder

I wore a light coloured buff for sun protection rather than warmth and a new pair of wool socks.  Shorts were Mammut MTR 141 whilst my top was a short sleeved cycling shirt which I use for longer distances as the rear pockets allow easy access to gels, map compass etc.  I also carried a long sleeved top to put on if it got cold (I put this on at the start of the night leg).  For footwear I chose my trusty Inov-8 Roclite 285 shoes and had a pair of Inov-8 X Talon 212 in the support vehicle as back up just in case.  The leg over the Glyders has a couple of sections of loose scree so at the start of this leg I changed socks, putting on Inov-8 debris socks.  These worked well, it’s just a shame that the leg starts by crossing wet ground to the comfort of dry socks only lasted a few minutes!

For the night legs I used a Silva Cross Trail II kindly loaned by Matt at Lumenator.  I used the torch on medium power with just a couple of bursts on full power for route spotting.  The 3xAA batteries in the external pack easily lasted the 5 or so hours of darkness.  I also wore an Alpkit Gamma torch around my waist, angled down to shine just in front of me.  I find this helps maintain some depth perception and was really useful over the rocky ground after Crib y Ddysgyl and on Elidir Fawr.

on leg 4 in the dark

on leg 4 in the dark

I made laminated maps of each leg with split times and any important route notes annotated on to them.  I used the Paddy Buckley 1:40,000 for general planning but used a 1:25,000 scale on the actual day (for me particularly important for trying to map read at night or with rain on the map).

Planning the food:

I was pretty clear about the food that I would eat whilst running: a mix of gels (SIS and Mule), Clif Shot Bloks, baby food pouches (Ella’s kitchen) and Nakd bars.  This was washed down with High 5 Zero electrolyte.  What I wasn’t so sure of was what to eat at the support points.  I managed a couple of bananas but also knew I would want something savoury to counteract the sweet stuff so I opted for tuna sandwiches, boiled potatoes with salt & butter, Bombay Bad Boy spicy pot noodle and spicy rice crackers.  I also had a few cups of licorice tea.

support point Paddy Buckley

Bombay Bad Boy!

I found the sandwiches were a mistake, I simply couldn’t chew the bread and ended up just eating the tuna.  The potatoes were fine and the pot noodles were brilliant with the hot sauce being really welcome after hours of sweet tasting food.  I decanted the tea into a bottle to take with me and swigged it with the rice crackers as it cooled.

The schedule:

I worked on a 23.30 schedule factoring in 10 minute breaks on each leg.  The schedule and split times can be seen here Splits.  (the last 3 spits are estimated as my watch ran out of memory)

How did it go?

The weather on the day was hot and sunny giving the advantage of excellent visibility but adding to the risk of dehydration and hyperthermia.  The night leg was partly cloudy with a little hill fog over the Glyders at dawn but on the whole giving no problems with navigation.  Even overnight the temperature was mild and the sky never seemed to get fully dark, the distant hills always a faint silhouette.

starting the night leg

starting the night leg

I made one glaring error coming off the Glyders and descending the wrong gulley which cost me half an hour and a lot of stress!  Apologies to my supporter Mike who was even more stressed – an introduction to down climbing wasn’t on the agenda when he agreed to help out!  I also lost time on the last leg, coming off the very last hill where I lost the path and ended up in deep heather, not having reccied this section.

I completed the round in 23.05, twenty five minutes up on schedule.

Lessons learnt:

Route finding on a recce when you are fresh is totally different to doing so when you’ve been on the go for 18 hours.  Don’t assume you know it.
Recce as much as you can and in different weather conditions.  The only section I hadn’t checked properly cost me time.
Stay hydrated.  Using a bladder meant that I drank little and often which seemed to work, particularly in the heat of the day.  I chose an electrolyte drink rather than electro / carb mix and this seemed to work fine.
Keep eating, even if you’re not hungry.  Towards the end of the run I used Clif Shot Bloks in the side of my mouth, letting them dissolve rather than having to chew and swallow. Take a spare map: mine fell out of my pocket on leg 1 but thankfully we had a spare.

Thanks:

I had a great time on the round, helped mainly by excellent (if a little too hot) weather conditions.  It would not have been possible without the support of friends so thanks to Ian L, Tim, Ian F, Jules, Mike, Neil, and particularly Lynn and Darrell who drove lots of miles and met me at every support point.
Thanks to Ian F, Mike and Tim for the photos.

23 hours later!

23 hours later!

Fell Running in the Peak District

There are lots of reasons why the Peak District is a great location for fell and trail running.

First of all there’s the scenery; from rough open moorlands to pretty limestone dales, each with their own flora and fauna and the stark contrast between the gritstone and limestone landscapes.  Then the variety; tough, steep hill climbs or flat routes around pretty reservoirs or along valley bottoms.  For the competitive runner there are beginner friendly summer races and tough, long, testing challenges.  And all of this is easily accessible from the major road and rail networks.

trail running in the Peak District

fantastic Peak District scenery

If you’d like more information or would like to arrange a guided run, contact me:
info@fellrunningguide.co.uk

Have you tried fell and trail running in the Peak District yet?


logo www coaching

Blue Sky and Birdsong

One of my favourite times for fell running is early in the morning.

On the short drive out to the Peak District, passing cars heading in the other direction I reminded myself how lucky I am to be going for a run when the rest of the world is heading for the office!

Today the skies were blue and although the sun was up it had yet to warm the air and the chill breeze meant that a windproof was needed.  As I was getting changed the distinctive call of a curlew drew my attention and I saw a pair of birds on the moor close to the road.  I love easy runs when I can focus on the natural sights and sounds around me, nature is my earphones!

My run took me along the edge of steep ground with a fantastic view of the Hope Valley.

Running above the Hope Valley

running above the Hope Valley

Crossing the minor road I climbed Higger Tor and crossed its flat summit before dropping off the south side.  Easy running and a few short, steep steps brought me onto the old fort of Carl’s Wark, another flat top with a jumble of gritstone boulders on its southern flank giving way to easier running on a grass, heather and bilberry slope.

skipping over the boulders

skipping over the boulders

I headed downhill aiming to cross the pretty Burbage Brook by means of a hop over the rocks.

crossing Burbage Brook

crossing Burbage Brook

Warmer now I stopped to take off my jacket and spent a couple of moments soaking in the atmosphere: the warm sun, the burbling of the stream and the sound of a cuckoo in the woods to the north.  How wonderful fell running can be!

Setting off again I climbed gradually up to the wide trail that bisects the valley and turned north towards the cuckoo.  The trail gives fantastic views with natural and quarried gritstone edges to the east whilst to the west there is the forest and brook with Carl’s Wark and Higger Tor standing proud beyond.

running below Carl's Wark and Higger Tor

running below Carl’s Wark and Higger Tor

As I neared the head of the valley, from the rocks to my right I heard a different, rarer sound: the high pitched cheep of a Ring Ouzel.  This small, blackbird like migrating bird visits the Peak District crags in summer to breed before heading back to warmer climes in winter.

Leaving the thrush to it’s territorial feud I approached the end of the trail and below Burbage Bridge I crossed the stream again, swinging back towards Higger Tor.

running below Burbage Bridge

crossing the brook below Burbage Bridge

Almost finished, as I approached the car I again noticed the curlews.  I must have been closer to their ground nest this time as they were much more vocal in their calls.  One bird flew noisy circles around me before landing only a few feet away in a determined effort to distract me from its precious home.

Curlew

Curlew

Run finished, and not yet 9.00am.  A morning of blue sky and birdsong and I’m again reminded of how fantastic trail running and fell running in the Peak District can be.

fell running guide logo

Spring Feast

Fell Running is fun again!

After an interminably wet winter it seems that Spring has arrived.  Three consecutive days of blue skies and distant horizons has made running in the hills a pleasure once again and left me hungry for more.

mountain running under blue skies

mountain running under blue skies

Like a starving man at a banquet I have gorged on the season’s new promise, feasting on the mountains of Snowdonia under crystal skies.

Edale Skyline run

sun on my face

The Edale Skyline, relishing now the challenge of its energy sapping peat and delighting in the views across Kinder.

enjoying spring running

enjoying spring running

And closer to home the trails of Burbage and the splendid vista westwards towards Win Hill and Mam Tor.

And today as I ran away from Stanage Edge, warmed for once by sun rather than exertion, the sweetest dessert – the cry of a Curlew – surely a sign that the long, wet winter is behind us.

High Peak Marathon

“Dave, do you want to be in our team for the High Peak Marathon?”

Damn, I’d been avoiding that for a few years, I’d always had a niggling injury or something else in the diary but this year there was no excuse for saying no.

But what’s the big deal? you ask, everyone does marathons nowadays don’t they?  Well this isn’t exactly a marathon, it’s actually 42 miles.  Over some of the remotest, boggiest and most navigationally challenging parts of the Peak District.  In February.  Overnight.

And so the dialogue between the devil and the angel began:

“Yeah that would be great, who else is in the team?”
“Stu Walker! – 2nd in the Ultra Tour of the Peak District and he’s just set the record for 15 Trigs!  He’s a monster!”
“Yeah it will be great, I’ve been secretly hoping someone would ask.”
“Jeez Dave are you mad, you’ve never run that distance before, you’re out of your depth.”
“Yeah put my name down, can’t wait”
“Jeez Dave you prefer short sharp stuff, this is going to be a night of pain.”
“Yeah, count me in 42 miles can’t be that bad.”
“Dave seriously, the other 3 guys have done it before, they’re good at this kind of thing, this will break you!”

Anyway the devil won and a few months of long training runs and recces of the tricky sections began.  My anxiety wasn’t helped when it seemed that, not content with simply completing the race, my team mates were hoping for a top 3 finish.  Too late to back down now!

After the wettest winter since Noah’s day the forecast suggested we might actually be lucky and get a clear night.  Not that it would improve the man eating morass that is the section from Cut Gate to Swain’s Head but it would be nice to stay dry from the waist up.

And so to race day.  We weren’t due to start until a quarter to midnight and as there’s no such thing as stocking up on sleep there was plenty of time to pack my bag, change my mind, repack my bag, change my mind…

Driving to Edale, stars shone bright.  The clear night offered a faint hope of frozen conditions underfoot, a vain hope, the cold air merely resulted in fog on Bleaklow and Brown Knoll and some treacherously slippy flagstones on the Pennine Way.

I hate the hours before a race, I just want to get going and knowing that I wasn’t just racing for myself but had 3 team mates who were relying on me didn’t ease the nerves.  10.30 pm, all 4 of us present, time to register, sign in, no way out now!  Into the back of John’s van to divide up the team kit and go over the route, last minute nerves and decisions: which gloves to take? “How much food are you carrying?”  “Do you think I need this much water?”

“5 minutes boys.. where’s John?  Come on we’re going”  And off, into the night, an easy pace up through the fields towards Hollins Cross following a line of twinkling lights up onto the distant ridge.

Ten minutes in, damn I’m too hot, I’ve got too many layers on!  I unzip my windproof and roll up my top, I knew I didn’t need two merinos!  I’m sweating, I don’t normally sweat this much, I’ll dehydrate, I’ll get cramp, they’ll have to carry me!

Significant Moments:

Sheepfold Clough.  No sign of the checkpoint, we run on then change our minds and turn back to have another look.  It’s not there, we’ve dropped lower than we needed and are faced with a brutal climb up a near vertical slope.  Wasted time, wasted energy.

Lost Lad.  My batteries fail even though they were fully charged, thankfully the spare set are easily accessible.

Far Black Clough. A slight panic as we seem to be following a stream west when we should be going south. A quick check of the map gets us back on track – not the one we wanted to be on but in the right direction.

Bleaklow Stones.  We emerge at the checkpoint into fog and slight snow, just what you need on the trickiest navigation section!  We slow to a fast walk sticking to compass bearings.  Not the quickest crossing of Bleaklow but we emerge bang on the cairn and know it’s only 200 metres to the checkpoint.  We shouldn’t get lost now!

Snake Crossing.  After Wain Stones we notice a lightening in the sky, dawn, and can turn torches off by the time we hit the road.  Good job as my second set of batteries are spent!*  We’re told there’s only 4 teams ahead of us. I scoff a jam butty and some Soreen (I’d love to take up the offer of a cup of tea but have to make do with a refill of water) and we’re off in pursuit.

Mill Hill.  We catch and pass one team, reeling them in along the interminable flagstones and when we get to Kinder I suddenly realise that I’ve only got a medium distance fell race to do!  Both the devil and the angel are in agreement now “You’re going to do it Dave”

Edale Cross.  It looks a bit different in the fog, I know where I am but not where the checkpoint is.  A quick check of the map to confirm, don’t want to cock up now.

Brown Knoll.  We get a slightly bad line, missing a trod and Nicky Spinks under cuts us. She’s going strong: “encouraging” the men in her team and relieving one of them of their bag.  “Simes, will you carry my bag?”

Hollins Cross.  “All downhill now boys.  Just the cow muck to negotiate and we’re home!”

Edale Village Hall:  Nine hours and fourteen minutes, sixty nine kilometres, two thousand four hundred metres of ascent.  4th place overall – not a bad night out!

High Peak Marathon statistics

69km and 2,400m climb. A good night out!

N.B. GPS units are not allowed to be used but can be carried in a sealed bag to record your route.  Ours is shown above.

Kit I used

I wore:
Icebreaker merino short sleeved T
Planet X merino long sleeved cycling top (used rear pockets to carry food)
Lowe Alpine powerstretch tights
Montane Litespeed windproof jacket
SealSkinz socks
Extremities windproof gloves
Windproof beanie
Buff round neck
Suunto Core watch
LED Lenser H7R head torch*
Inov-8 Mudclaw 300

* Six and a half hours and two fully charged sets of batteries.  I wasn’t even using full beam.  The torch (LED Lenser H7R) has been sent back!

I carried:
Blizzard Bag (part of team kit)
Adventure Medical Kit survival bag
Montane Minimus waterproof smock
OMM Kamleika waterproof trousers
OMM Rotor Smock insulated jacket
Buffalo Mittens (these were stuffed up my jacket sleeves for the whole race!)
Laminated map sections
Small Silva compass and whistle
OMM Last Drop 10 litre rucksack

Food and Drink:
500ml electrolyte, topped up with 1 Nuun tablet at Moscar and Snake Summit feed stations
2 SiS gels
2 Ella’s Kitchen baby brekkie pouches
2 Clif Shot Blocks – 1 not eaten
2 Nakd bars – not eaten
1 Coconut bar – not eaten

Plus emergency food 1 Cliff Shot Blocks, 1 Cliff Bar (not eaten)

This was supplemented by a quick bit of cake / flapjack at each feed station.

High Peak Marathon equipment

You’re not taking all that are you!

Hardest Moments:

Between Swain’s head and Bleaklow Stones I thought my torch was playing up as it appeared to be flickering.  The others said it looked fine to them and it was actually my eyes!  I was a bit worried by this and tried to run with the torch in my hand.  (I have read about head torches being bad for your eyes).  Holding the torch made running whilst keeping an eye on the compass particularly difficult and I put it back on my head after about 10 minutes.  The drag up to the checkpoint was probably my lowest moment of the whole race.
The flagstone section to Mill Hill seemed to go on for ever but it was light by then and although there was still a long way to go, psychologically we were over the hardest bit.

Foggy Dawn

foggy dawn – approaching Brown Knoll (photo Ian Winterburn)

Final Thoughts:

Probably the hardest thing to get right was carrying just the right amount of kit.  The forecast was for a cold, frosty night.  It was accurate and quite calm which meant it didn’t feel cold.  I wore too many layers (only needed one shirt). I didn’t need my Buffalo mittens but don’t regret taking them as the threat of 9 hours with cold hands is too much to suffer.

I took too much food.  I didn’t want to run out but being able to grab stuff at the feed stations meant that I carried more than necessary.

A top 3 finish would have been good and was definitely achievable if we hadn’t faffed around in Sheepfold Clough.  However just to get round in one piece and not let the side down is what I would have settled for when the devil said yes.

Finally, thanks to my team mates from Dark Peak Fell Runners: Simon, John and Stuart for a good night out.

Will I be doing the High Peak Marathon again next year?  You’ll have to ask the devil!

Running Free Review

Running Free, a new book from the author of Feet in the Clouds.

Running Free

Richard Askwith tells of his journey through different ages of running, from his early years as a time and outcome obsessed runner pounding the tarmac to what he is today, a rural runner motivated by the pursuit of happiness.  Turning his back on the modern world of corporate branded, packaged and regimented running he expresses what running now means to him.

At times poetic and humorous he describes his running adventures both abroad and in the countryside around his Northamptonshire home with his dog Nutmeg.  Where once running was about personal bests he now takes pleasure in nature: the sight of a Buzzard or the dew soaked grass on a dawn run.

He eloquently captures the essence of that most basic of human instincts which we all felt as children: running for pleasure, running free.

 If you enjoyed Feet in the Clouds then reading Running Free is a must.

 

Inov-8 Muclaw 300. One thousand km and still going!

This weekend I clocked up my one thousandth kilometre in my Inov-8 Mudclaw 300’s.

For a shoe that has to put up with the harshest of treatment; the acidic peat of the Peak District and the abrasive gritstone and rough heather moorland that’s some going!  Not to mention being left outside the back door on winter nights.

I use SportTracks software that automatically clocks the mileage (kilometre-age) so I know it’s an accurate count.

SportTracks software

SportTracks software keeps count

I’ve had them since October 2010 (again thanks to keeping a training diary with SportTracks) and remarkably the shoes have still got a good amount of tread left on them, particularly the heel studs which can be prone to coming off. Admittedly they’re not quite as yellow as they once were – but who wants bright yellow shoes! The only real sign of wear is in the heel cup.

Inov-8 Mudclaw 300

1000km and still going strong!

I do have a new pair put aside for racing but I reckon I’ll get a good few months more out of these as my winter training shoe and for running guide work.

Do I have a secret for getting such a good life span from my shoes?  Well warm soapy water works – and I suppose only being 8 stone helps too!

Frosty Burbage Run

Sometimes the weather doesn’t inspire me to go running at all.  But today was different.

We’ve had more than our fair share of wet and wind this winter.  Running under dull grey skies, head down vainly trying to avoid the rain and finishing each run cold, soggy, caked in mud. So today it was great to wake up to a clear, frosty morning, the sort of day that makes fell running a joy!

I headed off to my favourite playground hoping to be inspired by the beautiful Peak District scenery.  I wasn’t disappointed: