Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Strava Review

Like any self respecting obsessive hill runner I have a clever clogs gps watch, in my case a Garmin Forerunner 405, to record all my runs on. It records my location, the route I've run, my running speed and, vital when running in the hills, my climb and descent stats. And ever since I've had my garmin I've been very happy to upload all of my runs from the watch to 'garmin connect' on't t'internet so that I can analyse my running stats until I'm blue in the face, look at my height profiles and generally impress myself with my miles run/feet climbed per day, per week, per month and any other per something or other I feel inclined to look up. It fantastic..... 

Or so I thought..... 

Until I got introduced to Strava.....

Strava is a free internet service that does pretty much everything that garmin connect does but with a few added extras and, most importantly, prettier and bigger route maps. And as people who know me well will attest, my initial impressions and opinions of things I know very little about are often inaccurate, biased, unhinged, rubbish and generally way, way off beam. And my first impression of Strava was that it was crap! Of course my initial impression was largely influenced by me not quite understanding exactly how to use it and for a while not being overly bothered to find out. But now that I do know (more-or-less) how to use it, would you believe it,  I'm starting to like it. 

Strava is used by runners and cyclists alike and, if you want to get all geeky (and I do) you can even record your running shoes/bicycle used for each run/ride. These are the sort of statistics that I can't resist and with a quick couple of clicks of the mouse I can see that my current running shoes have done 271.8 miles.    Where Strava though beats garmin hands down is that it has a "segment" tool which allows you to isolate a particular part of your run (cycle route) and save it. These segments are usually hill climbs and, because the segment is saved to the main Strava server, each and every time that you (or anybody else using Strava) runs/rides that segment your times are compared and little league tables begin to be created. This segmenting has taken off big style on the cycling front with nowadays quite ferocious competition developing on well used cycle hill climbs and/or descents. Its getting increasing use for running too although, if you live in the sticks like me, I suspect there will be less Strava users around than in perhaps more populous places.

So for instance on my run tonight I ran all the way up to the trig point beside Warrendale Knotss from Settle and I've now set this part of the run as a "segment". At present I'm top of the leader board for that segment but, there again, I'm the only person who's run it and to date I've only run it once whilst using Strava. As I run it again each run will be added to the league table which obviously gives me lots of incentive to try and pb it, and thereby (in theory at least) making me push myself all the more. Should any other Strava using runner run that route (however unlikely that may be in this neck of the woods) that too will be included. Clever eh?

That said there are a few problems with Strava; my run this evening for instance on garmin connect showed the climb to be about 1,200 feet but the self same run on Strava rather ridiculously showed the climb as being over 1,600 feet, some 400 feet higher! This isn't always the case (my run from Sunday was longer and higher and Strava only exaggerated the climb by about 100 feet on that one) but clearly its not ideal. Also Strava will automatically create segments for you on runs and, until you suss out how to delete these, this is jolly, jolly annoying! Its also irritating that when you forget to turn on your watch and want to enter your run into Strava manually it won't let you put in the climb height, only allowing the run distance.

All the same, despite these faults, the segments make it really unique and a great training aid. More importantly your routes can be displayed very impressively:

Sunday, 24 February 2013

Having an ice time up Wetherlam

With the High Peak Marathon looming next Friday night, me and Hester scaled back from one or two of my original hare brained plans for Saturday and chose to scoot over to the Lakes and trot up Wetherlam from Coniston. I hadn't actually been up there before so it was as much an exploration outing as a run and we took it nice and easy and just had a chilled out time. "Chilled out" being the operative words as it was jolly fricking icy, still pretty snowy up high and, once we crested the top ridge, the wind was very cuttingly in halfly indeedy. A lovely 7 and a bit miles though with total climb getting on for 2,600 feet followed by a delicious cumberland sausage butty for me, something less carnivorous for Hester, and tea and cake in the Bluebird Cafe.

It wasn't shorts weather for sure!

Hester at about halfway up

Looking towards Coniston Old Man

The Old Man

On the top ridge with Crinkle Crags behind me and Scafell and Scafell Pike just about visible beyond that

Not a bad view

Me deciding it was a bit jolly parky up top and choosing not to hang about!

Ice and rocks - Levens Water

Looking towards Swirl How from Levens Water

Hester exploring an ice cave

There be treasure, yargh!

Ze route up ze mountain

Wednesday, 20 February 2013

A timely reminder from the postman....

Or do I mean a nasty surprise? My Lakeland 100 map and guide has arrived. Doot der der doot doot doot!! 

The first bit of interesting information is that the 100 mile race is actually 105 miles long! :-)

Anyway I'll worry about all that nearer the time - 26th July is yonks off yet

Monday, 18 February 2013

Cutthroat Bridge to Snake Pass High Peak Marathon recce

The High Peak Marathon encapsulates everything that can be considered bonkers about long distance fell running:

1. The event is contested by 50 teams of 4, the vast majority of whom look to run it although there are usually a few walking teams too. Well 'run' might be a bit of an exaggeration because the ground it covers isn't particularly easy to actually run on for much of the time and, in some places, at all.

2. Its set in the most god forsaken part of the High Peak in the tough as old boots northern end of the Peak District, quite possibly the boggiest and most inhospitable place you could hope to find in the country (the world?)

3. Ironically its not a marathon in any sense of the word as its not 26.2 miles - instead its 42 miles, and even longer than that if you get the navigation wrong... which is very very easy to do. I've ran it three times in the past and one of the great things about the event is the natty T shirt that you get on the night. I was wearing one of my HPM T shirts once in Leeds and a random chap, obviously a bit of a runner, wandered up to me and asked what time I did - he was thinking conventional marathon and was probably expecting anything between 3.5 to 4 hours as my conventional answer - and was rather taken aback when I answered 12 hours 15 minutes! He sort of snorted a little laugh and gave me a "never mind, keep trying" sort of look and wandered off. Hah! What did he know?

4. The event is run at the beginning of March each year which, in the High Peak, translates to bleak bleak mid winter

5. The route is just incredible. You start at Edale village hall, run up to Hollins Cross, up and over Lose Hill, up Win Hill, down the other side, up Bole Hill, across Moscar Moor below High Nabb/Stanage Edge, then down to Cutthroat Bridge before following a huge loop around the Derwent Watershed following Derwent Edge and Howden Edge (a high and wild and never ever low ridge line) all the way round to Bleaklow  (and yes Bleaklow is bleak) before dropping down the Pennine Way to Snake Pass and then following that over Mill Hill and Kinder Scout, finishing off with a third of a lap around the Edale valley before dropping down to the village hall to finish. 

5. Just to add to the smorgasbord of toughness, the High Peak Marathon starts at 11 pm at night with teams setting off at one minute intervals. So not only are you blundering about on in the fog, rain, snow (insert crap weather of choice here) but, for probably a good 5 or 6 hours, you're blundering about in the dark too!

Sooo... anyway, yesterday in absolutely gorgeous but chilly sunshine 3 intrepid members of team High Peak Scuttlers, me, Hes and Gavin, (plus Harry) set off to run the middle toughest 18 mile section of the HPM between Cutthroat and Snake. Our fourth team member, Phil, had only just joined as a replacement for an injured Stewart and was unable to make it on the day. 

And yes is was an absolutely brilliant run. And we didn't even manage to get lost! Hester was flagging a little as we neared the north face of Bleaklow but was soon cheered up by all of the silver white Mountain Hares we saw scampering about there and was soon scampering about herself. It was still pretty darn snowy though which slowed us down somewhat, especially as much of the snow wasn't that crusty and we were often falling through it into knee and thigh deep drifts. Here's hoping for a rock hard frost on the night.... in less than two weeks time now!!

Three quarters of team scuttlers
Hester whizzing up through the tussock grass
Looking back from Derwent Edge
Kinder Scout on the far, far horizon - we go a really long way round getting there!
I of course won the muddy legs competition
There was a lot of going up and down peat groughs
Hester loved the mountain hares
Bleak but stunning at the same time
Bleaklow Stones

Sunday, 17 February 2013

Whernside and Great Coum from Dent

Me and Harold had a lovely 13 mile run from Dent on Saturday. Dent is a gorgeous Cumbrian village that is nevertheless part of the Yorkshire Dales National Park - its actually in perhaps the most quiet, unspoilt and beautiful corner of the Dales and well worth a visit to everyone that loves finding and exploring relatively unknown gems of the British countryside.

We ran up Whernside from the northern end, via the cairns and tarns, before dropping down from the trig point down to Kingsdale and then climbed up Great Coum and returned to Dent via the Megger Stones. A cracking run with a fair whack of snow still remaining on the tops. And a great pint of Dent Aviator and a delicious Westmorland Sausage baguette in the George and Dragon afterwards (I gave Harry one of the sausages).

Climbing towards the cairns on Whernside

Great Coum across the valley from Whernside

Harry, a cairn and Great Coum looming beyond

A not at all posed photo of me running with Dentdale behind

An iced up tarn with Whernside top on the horizon

Looking towards Ingleborough from Whernside

Another cairn, this time on Great Coum

Megger Stones (lots of mini cairns)

Harry's washing off point just before we got back to Dent

Monday, 11 February 2013

Inov8 Mudclaw 300's - their first 200 miles update

Well since their first run out on 10th January my "new" fell shoes have now covered 200 miles and they are still absolutely brilliant. The grips seem barely any different from new and the uppers aren't showing any wear and tear that I can see (in the gaps between their covering of mud). I wonder how much mileage I can get out of them?

Sunday, 10 February 2013

Fellsman reccy.... and more fricking snow!

The Fellsman is a 61 mile ultra distance race/trek over a large swathe of the southern half of the Yorkshire Dales. The route crosses getting on for a dozen peaks and high ridge lines, with a fair bit of the route being over trackless moors and fellside. The event is open to runners and walkers, although I'd guess that 75% or more of the field choose to run it, and this year's event starts at 9 am on 27th April, with me likely to be finishing sometime after midnight on the morning of 28th (touch wood). 

Today me and a hardy team of arctic explorers (Hes and Haz of course, together with Martyn, Helen, Emma and Carol) set out into a white out wilderness aiming to traverse a 15 mile stretch of the route, running across the Fleetmoss and Middle Tongue ridgeline above Langstrothdale,  then dropping down to Cray before climbing Buckden Pike and eventually meandering our way to Kettlewell via Top Mere.

We found it really hard to run a lot of the time, 5 hours to cover 15 miles isn't quick, but the snow was full on and deep making the ground really hard going (it would have been hard going even without the snow!) and just to add to the fun, for virtually the whole way, we were leaning into a strong wind blasting in from the east.

Just brilliant of course, as were the chips and eggs and steaming cups of tea at the Cottage Tearooms in Kettlewell and the pint of Copper Dragon Golden Pippin in the Bluebell Inn after.

Our "path"
The team making headway into the blizzard
Hester snow drift jumping
I'm not sure what Hes was doing here - looking for a contact lens may be?
The team minus Carol at the top of Buckden Pike
A ladder stile over a dry stone wall and a shed load of snow
Follow the wall and you can't go wrong 
Harry the polar pooch
Harry all snug and warm in the Bluebell Inn, Kettlewell

Saturday, 9 February 2013

More snowy running today

8:07 am and my first run of the day; 5.25 miles up into the hills above Settle from home with Harry and his friend Wallace, who's a springer spaniel with a big screw loose. It was cloudy but the clouds looked beautiful in a dark and ominous sort of way and there was a nice dusting of snow on the tops. Incidentally all the pictures look like I've gone all arty farty and published them in black and white but, nope, these are all full colour versions. No pictures of Wallace for this run though - he was a white and brown blur all the way round.

The cairn above Warrendale knots
Looking towards Pendle from the trig point
Lovely winter sky
Really love this picture of the boy.

11:17 am and the second run of the day; this time 6 miles up Pen y Ghent with Lauren (daughter #2) and her buddy Kirsty (and of course Harry and Wallace). Well, when I say run, there was an awful lot that was unrunnable under Lauren's rules ("I hate running on tarmac", "I hate running downhill" and the best of all, bearing in mind she was wearing fell shoes "I can't run on stones in these shoes") but it was still a great run out/not run out all the same.

Pen y Ghent ahoy!
Lauren and Harry, with Wallace ferreting about behind
I like icicles, they're twice-icles as nice-icles....
Harry, Kirsty and Lauren running with Wallace ferreting about
Wallace standing still at long last!