Dawn - Sometimes An Ultrarunner

Dawn - Sometimes An Ultrarunner

April 30, 2011

Easter Eggstravaganza BWF IVV Marathon, 26.2 miles, 23 Apr 11

I guess God even smiles on Great Britain's weather once in a while, as a series of nice warm days have graced our shores during the long Easter weekend.  What better way to enjoy it than with a long run in the countryside.  The British Walking Federation came through for me with a 42k walk, and even allowed me to get my volksmarching book stamped for the first time in a couple of years.  Before the walk even started, I was already feeling comfortably warm in just a T-shirt, and wondering if I should change into shorts (I did).  It was a small crowd of walkers that set off, and soon I was running alone in the sunshine.

It was almost a shock to find out that no map and compass were needed on the route, as the route description and colored tape markers made getting around the course a breeze.   My year in England must have corrupted me, with all this map and compass work, because I felt too light and easy, running around without all the perephenalia usually required on a walk, such as full waterproofs, map, first aid kit, and emergency blanket.   Anyway, in shorts, T-shirt and a tiny backpack, I was as light as I have ever been on an English run.  How quickly I forget that I did several thousand kilometers of volksmarches in Germany, without ever carrying a pack, using a map, or getting a route description.   Amazing that I almost never got lost just following the route markers! 

The route was pretty flat, given that this IVV event was in Barnburgh just north of Rotherham.  The course took us through brilliantly blooming fields of yellow mustard seed, woods filled with blankets of bluebells, and flowering trees with petals gently flying off in the breeze.  Not that there was much of a breeze, as the air felt very still and light.  I'm sure most of the participants were actually wishing for a breeze, to cool us down, instead of cursing the wind and the cold.  The sun never stopped shining, and the temperature kept creeping higher, until readings of 26C/80F were bandied around.  That's very hot to be out running around in, especially without acclimating first.  And it's still April?!?!

By the time I hit 20 miles, I was having trouble digesting enough water to cool myself down.  I could feel it sloshing in my stomach but not going anywhere.   So I slowed down a little (ok, I walked), enjoyed the scenery, and poured water over my head at the next checkpoint.  But it was still a hot, long few miles back to the start hall.  Luckily we went through another shady forest with bluebells everywhere, and it distracted me from the pain of running overheated.  Thanks to the organizers in the White Cross Walkers BWF Club, after arriving back at The Coach and Horses, I soon had a glass of ice-water in my hand, munching a Cadbury Egg, and recovered nicely.  Later I was quite happy sitting on a picnic table enjoying the afternoon and munching on a tasty plate of pies 'n peas. 

I am going to try and remember this weather for the rest of the summer when it goes back to being cold, windy, rainy, and generally miserable.   At least I had one nice day :) Ok, well this spring I'm willing to admit that we've had quite a few!

Flickr photos are here

April 23, 2011

Flamborough Cliff walk

I've been in the UK for a year, spring has arrived, and I need to get out more.   That's my spring resolution for the, uh,... spring.  So we took a drive to the east coast on a friends recommendation, and did an 11 mile hike around Flamborough Head to see the cliffs and the nesting birds. 

It was a wonderful spring day out, sunny, almost warm, and almost not windy.   Ah, well, you can't have everything here on the island, can ya? 

We started our hike, for lack of knowing any better, in Sewerby, walking east out to the lighthouse and then around to the bird colonies.  Although I didn't have a map of the area, I had looked at one beforehand, and figured that following a trail along the edge of a cliff couldn't be too hard.  I was right.  When we got to the lighthouse, a bit windswept from the headwinds, it was a perfect choice to drop down to the cove below and explore the cliffs while the tide was out.  Goodness, it was pretty warm down there in the sunshine, too.  I got down to wearing just one sweater instead of a jacket.  Never mind that the people around me were wearing shorts and watershoes...I'm not that crazy. 

Just jumping back across a deep puddle before the tide came in, we started around the north side of the head and finally found the thousands of nesting birds by following the smell.   Rob was estactic with his camera, and kept running off to the cliff edge to take more pictures.  We forgot the binoculars, though, and hence couldn't spot any Puffins amid the melee of other birds clinging to the cliffs. 
Back across the peninsula with the wind finally at our back, we enjoyed the sunshine in our face, and the trail wound through the woods to Dyke's End.    Back on the cliffs, the tide was fully in again, and all but lapping at them instead of being hundreds of feet out into the bay.

April 19, 2011

24 hour Adventure Racing Training Session in the Lakes

Adventure Races are usually team events.  Teams tend to want to train together.  So when my newly found team decided to conduct a 24 hour training session in the Lakes District, it actually sounded like a good idea.  In theory.  In reality, my schedule had me flying in from the USA the day before the training, then working all the next day, and then finally driving up to the Lakes and starting the 24 hours of training.   So a bit jet-lagged already, I was totally scared out of my mind a bit nervous about whether or not I would survive the day.

Adventure racing can have many potential events combined into a race, but mostly races consist of mountain biking, trekking, and kayaking.  So guess what was on our menu?  We started off with a long trek through the night, at first sticking to the low ground, but then making our way up and over a few hills, which I’m sure would have been beautiful in daylight.  

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As it was, I can really only tell where we went from the tracklog of my GPS now that I have downloaded it into my computer.   But as we climbed up to Dow Crag, the wind, which had been calm in the valley, picked up enough that we had to stop to add a windproof top.   And although the temperature didn’t drop much below 10C/50F, it felt cool enough up there that I almost wished for even another layer, which is the opposite of being back at the car wondering if I needed to bring anything!  I guess even on a nice night here it can still be pretty eventful.  We were all a bit chilled on the top, but decided to keep moving rather than put on our waterproof pants, limiting what a particularly witty member of our group called “boiling in a bag” on the uphill sections. 

From there, our route followed a knife-edged ridge over The Old Man of Coniston, Swirl How, and Wetherlam.   Missed views or not, as I picked my way over slippery rocks on hands and knees, I was somewhat grateful that my headlamp couldn’t reach the bottoms of the black cliffs looming under us.

I wasn't much of an aid to navigation, as the group was quite familiar with the area and I had yet to see it in daylight (notice recurring blog theme).  The almost full moon was mostly obscurred by clouds (another recuring theme), but on the hills we could at least see shadowy outlines of other hills, and so get a sense of our location beyond the map and compass and the light of our headlamps.  Luckily the fog was minimal and so was the wind, and the walking was relaxing and enjoyable even if it was through the wee hours of the morning.   I must say our navigators did a good job, although we did get off route once or twice actually for all I knew we could have been walking in circles

In one tricky section, to find the trail we wanted, we just took a compass bearing and started heading in that direction.   The end result was us picking our way down a steep rocky incline, skirting the occasional impassable cliff, and then following a boggy creek to a rock wall, where a ladder stile was miraculously located.  Both navigators claimed the credit for leading us to that one!

Photo courtesy of Sarah
 9 hours of trekking later, we were back at our cars and took an absurdly long time leisurely transitioned into the biking phase.    On a rented mountain bike, with little technical experience, I was left behind too many times to count once in a while.  Luckily everyone waited for me at each intersection like the good team they are.  Thanks, guys!  But it was fun to bump over the rocks with the shocks on my bike, and after a while I almost got the hang of it.  About then, we arrived at the ferry at Lake Windermere, and rode across to get to the kayak rental place.  After another transition, and a bit of a struggle to get into kayak and attach my sprayskirt, we were off and paddling on the glass calm water.   I get the feeling that it’s not this nice on the lake very often, but we took advantage of it by having a relaxed paddle near the shoreline to see the beautiful green leaves appearing on the trees.   The biggest trick was to keep from falling asleep while paddling, as we had all been awake for at least 24 hours by then.  I wasn’t in any danger of that, really, as the guys in the other kayak told jokes and kept me laughing so hysterically that I couldn’t hardly paddle at times.

Photo courtesy of Sarah

The sprayskirt and calm day meant that in the kayak I finally felt warm and dry for the first time since sweating my way up the hills last night.  I think adventure racing tends to be a sport where you are uncomfortable most of the time, but for some reason still sounds fun.  Anyway, the kayak portion was over way too fast, and soon we were again on our bicycles peddling our way back to the cars.  It was only early afternoon by that time, but as we were all feeling a bit tired (gee, I wonder why?), we decided to cut the planned training short by a few hours.   Which got extended a bit when we were having so much fun on the mountain bike, that our route kept getting longer and longer.  On a nice sunny day in the Lakes it’s hard to leave them behind.  After about 19 hours, we were back at the cars for good, and packing up to head home for some well-earned sleep.