Race Reports, January 2011

CompassSport Cup, Silton, 30th January

Blue men 6.9km 250m (actual 11.5km 577m)

Dougie Nisbet

My recent plunge back into the world of orienteering has given me an uncomfortable reality check. When I was at school I wasn't too bad but I was a large fish with a big attitude in a tiny orienteering club. Now, some years later I'm facing up to the reality that I was never quite as good as I thought. I had this confirmed today when I finished 'comfortably' in last place at the Cleveland Orienteering Klub qualifying Heat of the Compass Sport Cup and Trophy. [Dougie did in fact beat four competitors who made errors on their runs. He may have been the last finisher but he did finish and he did visit all the controls. Orienteering Ed.] I'd spent some time the night before revising the funny symbols that are the standard now used for control descriptions and had worked out a system for having compass, map, and reading glasses, all reasonably accessible. I thought I was ready!

I arrived with tons of time to spare. Lots of time to spend watching some serious-looking orienteers with equally serious looking kit. I nearly missed my start because I'd forgotten to clear my dibber, then I nearly missed the dibber check (I had no idea there was such a thing!), and when we started I think I got it right. I asked the starter if I'd dibbed correctly and he said he wasn't paying attention and anyway, it was entirely my responsibility. Right'o.

I made steady progress round the course trying not to fall into the usual trap of skimping on the map-reading and trusting that controls would be obvious. This is easier said than done when industrious looking athletes are confidently flashing past at regular intervals. Apart from some scrappy decisions I was doggedly and steadily getting round. However two major navigation errors where to be my undoing and I think, without exaggeration, probably cost me well over 45 minutes in my ultimate time.

In the long stretch between controls 4 and 5 I'd decided to go for the long fast runnable way round rather than short and direct. A mis-judged corner-cutting shortcut found me disoriented and I realised that I wasn't just misplaced, I was proper lost. With teeth-gnashing impatience I decided to jog along the track I was on until I got to a suitable landmark so I could re-orientate myself. Before long a nice, man-made fence defined the corner of a plantation at a track junction and I found myself, so to speak. I shrugged off the lost time and charged on.

Out of the forest and onto the bog and some totally unrunnable deep heather (unless your initials are Will Horsley), which reminded me of Britain's worst fell race in a few weeks time. A few controls later I was regaining my confidence and left the moor to re-enter the forest for control 15.

Control 15 was a cheeky monkey, nestling deep in the forest at the bottom of a rock. I searched and searched and, recalling Tom's report from the Copeland Chase, kept peering hopefully over the tops of crags to see if the elusive control was lurking below. Eventually I found a splash of orange and gleefully approached to register my visit. A quick glance at the number showed it wasn't my control and I felt an angry well of despair. I've never felt such frustration before in an orienteering event, really angry shouty sweary frustration, borne from the realisation that I'd messed up big-time, was bleeding away bucket-loads of time, and the only solution was to work back to a known position on the map, and start again. It had to be done, and I forced myself to go back along the course and made myself walk (not run) from a known good position into the control. 37 minute split for control 34 to 35. Painful.

I tried to be philosophical as I completed the remainder of the course but I was a thoroughly grumpy bunny when I finished. I'd run fast when running was possible, but any gains were negligible compared to the time lost by sloppy navigation. Still, you live and learn, and I learned a lot today. And I'll be back. And next time, I won't be sodding last!

Eskdale Eureka, Castleton, NYM, 30th January

9m / 1610'

Jan Young

A calm, dull day saw Dave Shipman and I following the pack upstream, then onto Westerdale Moor, Little and Great Hograh Moors, before crossing Baysdale Beck to return to Castleton via Hob Hole ford. River levels being low, no van in the Esk this year! Plenty of mud and wet socks. Dave waxed lyrical about the views, enjoyed the course, nicked half my apres race snacks. He had nowt! Can't grumble as he did drive, we weren't last or lost and earned series points!

Results

Pos Name Club Cat Pos Time
1 Lewis Rodgers Loftus & Whitby M 65.59
33 Shelli Gordon New Marske Harriers F 1 76.00
100 Jan Young FV55 100.50
101 Dave Shipman MV55 101.15

112 finishers.

Northern XC Champs, Herrington, Sunderland, 29th January

Mudman

Clubs from far flung corners such as Wombwell and Wirral flocked to Herrington Country Park today to get their fix of mud and they didn't leave disappointed. To paraphrase Johnny Cash, "I tell ya, I've run tougher cross countries, but I really can't remember when". The course consisted of long stretches of thick, glutinous mud on up hill stretches, down hill stretches and on the flat - it was everywhere! Nonetheless the brave Striders were there to do their club proud. Five women and seven men girded their loins and did battle with the mud and their opponents on a chilly but dry day.

All very chirpy indeed ...

The women's team, starting before the men for once, finished 15th (from 20) and were led home by Keri, with Jan having a particularly good run. The men, cheered on by rapidly recovering Keith (and Jill), finished 29th out of 39 teams with Phil Sanderson skipping over the clarts to finish in an excellent 59th place. James Garland made his cross country debut for Striders with a fine run, although he looked a little shocked at the end stating "well, this was much harder than the Brass Monkey!"

So, come all ye cross country fans - next Sunday the Harrier League resumes on the Town Moor, Newcastle and it seems one or two of our stalwarts are other wise engaged. So lets see as many of our Park runners, track bashers, head torchers and street walkers there as possible. You'll be most welcome and the atmosphere in the Striders tent is second to none - particularly when someone knocks the horse liniment over!

Yorkshire Moors Frostbite Marathon, Whitby, 29th January

26.2m

Dave Robson

I had been undecided about this race as I wasn't sure how much of it was on the Cleveland Way. For some reason the organisers would not publish the exact route until you had paid your entry fee. I had found the Cleveland Way very muddy on the Hardmoors 30 at the start of the month and if it was going to be largely the same route then I wasn't going to enter. A friend from Fetcheveryone.com came to my rescue as she had already entered and forwarded me the route. Only about 9m in total on the Cleveland Way, the first 4.5m and the last 4.5m. The rest of the route was either on old railway lines or across the moors and most of it I had done before on the Hardmoors 30 or the Smugglers Trod.

Dave ready for the off. Another friend from Fetcheveryone, Liz, who I had run with on the Hardmoors 55 last year, was also doing this race and she came and stayed last night, so we were up at 4.30 in the morning to get to Whitby for the early start.

We left the house at 5.30 after de-icing the cars and arrived in Whitby still in total darkness just before 7. We registered and stood around at 7.30 for the briefing. It was about -2 at this point. I had bought roclites and mudclaws, the latter to be used if there was any sign of mud. But no, the ground was frozen so roclites it was.

Liz and I had agreed to run together again with no time targets set. The marathon runners had a 5min start over the 50m runners and we heard their hooter as we jogged along and as one runner close to us said 'the hounds had been released' and it was true, they steadily overtook us. We trotted along taking it easy as the aim was just to finish and get some time on our feet. At one point the runners ahead were turning sharp right away from the coast and we just followed them. It took me about 100 yards to come to my senses and realise that should not have happened. So I just said out loud we have made a mistake and all the runners around us just followed us back to the coast. Quite a few were just too far ahead, but they rejoined the path about a mile ahead when they realised their error.

After that it was fairly uneventful, the path was frozen mud until we reached the correct point to turn away from the coast to an old railway line and head into Robin Hood's Bay and checkpoint 1. We had a chat with the marshalls and headed off chatting away about races and Liz's preparations for the 10 marathons in 10 days event at Windermere in May.

We reached the highest point on the route as the sun came out and had a fantastic view of Robin Hood's Bay and Ravenscar Then it was off down across the moor to the turn around point - it was an out and back for the marathon runners, the 50m runners were similar but had a loop near their half way point. So we headed back up the moor and down to Robin hood's Bay. Now the wind had picked up a little, the sun had gone in and it was getting a little cold. We returned to the Cleveland Way and it was transformed. The frozen mud and been melted by the sun into major mud, probably worse than I had experienced at the Hardmoors 30. My roclites struggled and progress was very slow, especially when we had to descend steep gullies. But we made it back very happy and got fed soup at the finish. The second half was much slower than the first and we finished in just over 7hr 20min. A lovely day out.

Grand Prix Race. Endurance Champion Race.

Brass Monkey Half Marathon, York Racecourse, 23rd January

James Garland

Lindsay, looking somewhat incredulous at making it to the finish ... First and foremost a correction - as well as the general mayhem on arrival at York racecourse the Brass Monkey organisers can also get the age categories wrong! I'd be chuffed to bits if I can still run this kind of time when I do reach 45 :-) This was my first half marathon since 2007, but, as many Striders told me, this was the one to target for a PB. The fact that I beat the 1:30 barrier for the first time is partly thanks to Shaun who kept forging ahead until around the 8/9 mile mark.

The other contributing factor was the haggis and neeps supper (and a dram or two of Aberlour) the night before which clearly is the way forward in pre-race cuisine and kept me going at a steady pace.

The running conditions were perfect with only a slight breeze over a flat course, through a series of small villages south of York. After all those hill repeat sessions on Wednesday night the few slight inclines felt like downhills (at least until the last couple of miles). Well done to all of the Striders who took part and whose ages were correctly recorded!

Shaun adds ...

Congratulations also to Jo Porter who also got a PB, getting under two hours for the first time, and Kathryn too, who took about 15 minutes off hers, despite being trampled underfoot at the beginning, due to her lining up on the start line. ;-) Well done to Jean, too, who got her ageing uterus round without any major mishap.

Results

Pos Name Club Cat Pos Chip Time
1 Paul MARTELLETTI Victoria Park Harriers M 1:05:21
81 Stacey ROGERS Heaton Harriers F 1 1:21:12
231 James GARLAND MV45* 1:28:45
256 Shaun ROBERTS MV50 1:30:04
455 Andrew THOMPSON M 1:36:26
569 Anna SEELEY Durham City Harriers F 1:39:40
757 Dougie NISBET MV45 1:43:06
792 Kathryn SYGROVE FV45 1:46:18
795 Ian SPENCER MV40 1:44:31
883 Alister ROBSON M 1:48:41
888 Richard HALL MV50 1:48:53
900 Alan SMITH MV60 1:49:10
905 Stef BARLOW FV35 1:49:22
1017Jean BRADLEY FV50 1:52:30
1024Barrie EVANS MV60 1:51:58
1087Lindsay TARN F 1:54:51
1096Michelle LANGLEY F 1:55:12
1206Joanne PORTER FV40 1:58:24
1333Denise MASON F 2:04:43
1334Dave ROBSON MV55 2:04:44
1396James NICHOLSON MV60 2:10:02
1461Emma DETCHON F 2:15:05
1478Christine FARNSWORTH FV55 2:16:59
1505Margaret THOMPSON FV60 2:22:01

1561 finishers. *Or indeed not.

Cathedral Relays, Durham, 22nd January

3x3km

Jan Young

Keri going round the bend.

Twenty four North East clubs competed on a fast, flat course, with good running conditions like the Brass Monkey, but soooo much shorter at 3000m and no travel time!

OK, we couldn't compete with Stacey Smith of Gateshead, running 9.43, but we all had a good workout, especially Keri who ran two legs in her team.

Unfortunately, Fiona missed out on fastest FV50 award, which went to Ingrid Hope of S'land in an impressive time of 11.50!

 

 

 

 

Elvet 'A':   Keri 11.57    Angela 14.37    Keri  11.55    16/32 teams
Elvet 'B':   Nina 12.42    Jan    13.42    Fiona 12.44    19/32 teams

Pustertaler Ski Marathon, Toblach, Italy, 16th January

42km Classic

Colin Blackburn

In a desperate attempt to avoid running the rescheduled Hobble and Cairns races I decided there was no alternative but to escape to Austria for a week. It was a repeat of last year, a week of training followed by a second crack at the Pustertaler ski marathon. A week before I was due to depart I got an email from Alan Eason, the coach out there, saying that it was -15 and I should pack some cold weather gear. So with a ski bag full of Smartwool and down gilets I set off to Obertilliach via the Gatwick Travelodge. After a short flight to Salzburg and a very long train journey to Lienz (it should have been Sillian but a connecting train was late) I finally arrived in the beautiful village of Obertilliach. I had decided to make a holiday of it and stay in the same family-run hotel as last year, half board with free cake buffet every afternoon! This year the hotel had a brand-new ski storage room with a waxing table, vital for ski preparation, and no one else was using it. I had it all to myself.

Kickturning

Dagmar, me and Jo try kick turns

Two days later the Polish biathlon development squad moved into the hotel. Suddenly the waxing room wasn't so accessible. Serious skiers have to wax half a dozen skis every evening. There were a dozen biathletes. That's over 70 skis to wax! I wasn't in with a chance of getting into the room to wax my solitary pair. It was interesting to see serious athletes at breakfast every morning. They were just kids. They messed around and joked. They argued over silly things. They got all huffy, in Polish. But when they trained they didn't half train! A few days into my training we stopped to watch the biathlon competition. These young lads and lasses were seriously pushing themselves skiing and then managing to hit five targets while trying to regain their breath. And after that they have to ski 5km again. I think it was the most exciting sporting event I have ever seen live. It was also interesting to see how popular biathlon is here. The bigger competition up the road in Rupholding was covered on no less that three TV channels on the hotel television. The top guys and gals are treated like superstars and earn serious money.

Colin with ice-creams

Anyway, back to my much more mediocre skiing. The weather had been -15 but the day I arrived it shot up to around zero. That meant the snow was interesting. For the next few days I spent time with a great bunch of people all with different experiences on snow and different sports off-snow. We spent time skating, diagonal striding, going up hill, going down hill and even falling over now and then. After six days of drills and lovely woodland loops, expertly taught and led by Alan and Mary, I was as ready as I'd ever be. This year I had decided to do just one race so on the Saturday, the day of the 28km freestyle race, I went into Toblach in Italy to watch the rest of our group race. I did ski a few leisurely kilometres with Mary, another person sitting out the first race, but followed that with pizza and ice cream. There is a seriously good hot chocolate and ice-cream cafe in Toblach, well worth the air fare alone.

On the Sunday I travelled for a second day over the border to Toblach but this time wearing my sleek lycra race suit, it must surely trim a few seconds off and it isn't as seventies as some of the suits on display. The weather was very nice but as it was around zero and expected to warm through the day waxing the skis was potentially challenging. The night before I had found a gap in the Poles' waxing session and managed to iron on a couple of layers of klister onto my skis as advised by Alan, an experienced waxing technician for some national ski teams as well as a top class coach. Klister is a very sticky liquid wax which is good for ice and warmish snow. It seemed to do the trick as I managed to get around the whole marathon without to much slipping. Any slips were probably my technique rather than my waxing. The course was generally very good but the few hundred skiers ahead of me had at places, on the steeper descents, swept all the snow aside with their snow ploughs. This left a base of ice between two banks of snow, not the greatest surface to descend on. I managed most drops but did come a cropper once, just once, which is not bad for me.

As I got close to the finish I realised I was a bit quicker than last year and managed to cross the line 23 minutes up on last year's time in around 3:47. I think this was down to improved technique rather than fitness, now if I can only get fit for my next race I might do even better. At the finish I was presented with a third seriously over-sized Pustertaler medal. And after the last of our group finished we headed to the sports centre for a well earned meal: pasta, beer and cake! I may not do the Pustertaler next year but I'll certainly be back to tackle another marathon and wouldn't you know it the Dolomitenlauf takes place in the beautiful village of Obertilliach. As one famous Austrian once said, "I'll be back!"

Simonside Cairns, Rothbury, 16th January

11m / 1770' BM

Nigel Heppell

My first attempt at this, the rescheduled Simonside Cairns Race. I meet another first timer, Dave Shipman, just as low clouds obscure the Rothbury hills and the heavens open with a downpour strong enough to make me choose to take heavy duty wet weather gear. Fortunately the rain stops in time for the off and we are sent away down a tiny alley and over the very full River Coquet before slogging away uphill on roads and tracks to the moorside.

Up and over Lordenshaw is a steady walk/run on grassy slopes but soon we hit the moors proper and the track deteriorates to a mix of broken rock, soggy peat-filled runnels, and thick heather. This seems to go on forever as we plod head-on into the southwesterly wind , then a short, pleasant stretch sheltered amongst trees on soft woodland track before it's back on to the moors again, this time with the wind behind us. Underfoot it gets deeper, wetter, boggier, and lumpier. A lot of this is unrunnable to me, and I'm not the only one.

Into another patch of very dark woodland then out onto the track below Simonside Cairns where we are met by very welcome jelly babies and cups of water. As Dougie said last year, 'Onwards and upwards'. Climb the newly installed stone steps and then follow the stone-flagged path along the ridge. I'm no great fan of this as it seems to put more obstacles in the way and is hard on the feet and leg joints. On the way down off the ridge I find out just how hard it is when I unintentionally throw myself down onto the ground and leave a smidgen of flesh behind as a memento. I run out of steam on the final climb over Lordenshaw and find the tracks and roads back to Rothbury interminable. Straight into warm clothes, a cup of soup in the pub, and wait for the final few to arrive.

Upon reflection, I realise I've not run more than 10k since last July, so you can guess what my New Year's resolution is going to be.

Results

Pos Name Club Cat Pos Time
1 Alasdair Anthony Ochil M 1.21.53
2 Phil Sanderson NFR MV40 1.22.29
84 Nigel Heppell MV50 2.10.45
99 David Shipman MV50 2.32.36

102 finishers.

Sedgefield Handicap, 15th January

7.5M

Danny Lim

There was a sizeable contingent from the Striders today. On a personal note, it was my first time racing in the Strider vest, so a special race for me.

Being a handicap, we started in different waves. I was in the same wave with Angela, Claire & Joanne. The terrain was variable to say the least. The start was a grassy field, but this soon turned into a very muddy track. A couple of times, I stepped into the odd patch of ice, which broke leaving my foot in ankle-deep mud/ bog/ puddle. (I'm glad I tied my laces tight!) At this point, another strider started chanting, "Mud, Glorious Mud". It must have been one of the mud-people!

Eventually, we emerged onto a pebble track with fine views over the surrounding countryside. The route briefly took us through the village of Bishop Middleham though there was barely any traffic and no roads to cross. At this point, I still felt strong, so started passing runners from earlier waves.

On the final 2 miles, we returned to same path which was another mud-fest! There was so much water/ mud on my shoes. By this time, the faster runners were catching up and I had to keep looking over my shoulder. It was tough at this stage and I dug deep to keep up the pace till the finish. The fastest man on the course was our own Will Horsley & Jan was the fastest female strider.

Overall, the route was well-marked with lots of encouraging marshalls. Perhaps the only tricky bit was climbing over the stiles or fiddling with the gates which did cost a few seconds each time. At the finish there was tea & cakes for all. No entry fee combined with a quality mudbath, obstacle course & great scenery, how can anybody complain. I'll certainly try to be back for the summer handicap.

Orienteering Military League North, Hamsterley Forest, 12th January

Blue Course 7.5km

Dougie Nisbet

Historians will puzzle over why scattered around the forests of England their feet keep crunching on pairs of reading glasses in ancient Sitka Spruce plantations. How did they get there? What circumstances would cause someone to drop a pair of glasses in the middle of a forest? The answer is simple. Orienteering. And the glasses are all mine.

Approaching Hamsterley Forest for this rather intriguing Military League North orienteering event I stopped to watch the fog bumping its way along the valley floor. This could make for some very interesting navigation. However once registered and ready to go the problem was not fog but trying to tip-toe the few yards across the sheet ice to the start.

I miss the old days of the 3-2-1 countdown to the start of an orienteering competition. You used to get a start time allocated and you'd get into the countdown pens in good time before it was your slot. It was an exciting build up to the race. And then there were the master maps. Red pens, and copying stuff. Happy days. Now you just go, you know, when you're ready. When you feel like it. I registered my 'brikke' in the starting scanner and then I tiptoed gently across the ice and into the forest.

I looked at my map and found the first control. It looked straightforward enough. Next I checked for the control descriptions to see what it was. I was in for a surprise. Instead of the English descriptions I was used to they were presented in some strange hieroglyphics that could be anything. Was it a Mexican on a bicycle? A smiley face? No, apparently it was a depression. Having checked the University of Google I now know that these symbols are standard IOF control descriptions. I've never seen such things before and I think I have some homework before my next event.

I lost my brikke at the first control and spent a few minutes scampering around trying to find a large red chunk of plastic that had blended in nicely with the woodland floor. Once found I made steady progress round the course, running hard when the opportunity presented itself, and resting when map-reading was required. Perfect fartlek. I wasted time at control 11, which was a knoll. It wasn't a large steep brash-covered bank that loomed above the knoll, nor was it a stoney track running along the ridge, as I discovered as I stood at the top, and looked down at the text-book perfectly formed knoll that I'd clambered by and ignored. The knoll was a knoll shaped knoll thing, which might as well have had a comedy "knoll" signpost on the top just to make sure. I understand that things that walk and quack like ducks, may also actually be ducks.

After 15 controls, 6 miles, an hour and 45 minutes and a maze of twisty forest paths (all alike), I sprinted back into the car park and looked for the Finish. I assumed it was the same place I registered but there seemed a queue. That seemed rather leisurely. No one seemed to be sprinting anywhere in particular and I was beginning to feel a bit confused, so I asked another leisurely finisher where the finish was. "Back there", he pointed, "on the bridge. You couldn't miss it.". No, of course not, I agreed, and once he'd turned away I did a 180 and sprinted back to the Finish and scanned my brikke. The finish was, indeed, easy to miss, just a modest banner and a bright red scanner. None the less I expected a half-decent result. I hadn't got lost, ran hard where I could, and not wasted too much time on finding the controls. I looked at my results printout and ran my eye down to my position. 17th so far. Out of 18. 1 hour and 10 minutes behind the leader. Dougie, I thought, you're in the army now.

Old Monks 'Six', Hart, 9th January

5m

Dave Robson

I have never been able to do this race, it has always clashed with the Run for Bob in Whitley Bay, and I have always done that one. So for a change I decided on this race this year. It is only a twenty five minute drive from my home, but I am not aware of any members of my club doing it in the recent past. I was the only Elvet Strider there today. The clubs represented were mainly from the south and east of the country, although there was a handful of Durham Harriers there.

The drive there was a bit slow and scary along quiet country roads covered in snow and ice from last night's snowfall.

I located the Race HQ at the village hall in Hart and had a free cup of tea and felt slightly on my own not knowing anyone. After a while I went back to the car to get ready and get changed and bumped into Alan Rowell and had a chat.

There was lots of snow and ice on the roads in Hart and they decided to move the start and shorten the course, which was definitely the right decision, the ice on one early bend was really bad.

The race was billed as multi terrain and it certainly was that. It started north along undulating roads covered in snow and ice and it felt a bit slippery. Then it was off road along the side of a field, onto a farm track and steeply down into a muddy dene. We crossed over a stream on a slippery bridge and the then up the steep steps out of the dene. We can out onto a railway line and turned west, which turned out to be uphill. Then south east along a road in the direction of the dene. Plunged down into the dene over stiles and walked out the other side trying to get some purchase on the slippery mud. Then there was a long slippery undulating road section to the finish.

I had started very slowly, but rather than hold anything back as I had done in yesterday's races, I decided to go for it and started to gradually increase the pace. I struggled up some of the hills and was overtaken by other runners, but I caught them all on the flats and the gradual inclines. After the race we all went back to the village hall for free food and drink.

The shortened distance turned out to be pretty much 5m and it was great fun.

Grand Prix Race. King/Queen of the Mountain Race.

Hexhamshire Hobble, Allendale, 9th January

10.5m / 1220' CM

James Garland

Part hobble part skating rink at times this was a great, mainly off-road course, with plenty of single track and undulating terrain. All the way round you never really had 100% control over the limbs particularly on the single track sections where there were a few 'Bambi on Ice' moments and plenty of groans when the shoes broke through the ice into the muddy cold water.

Dave checks nothing's hanging out, while Jan looks away.

Despite the overnight snow, 122 runners turned out (5 from the Striders - me, Dougie, Jan, Alistair and David, some of whom had been at the NE championships the day before - good effort!) and completed the race in mostly sunny conditions, at least until 6 miles in when the route turned and headed into a bracing wind which continued for most of the loop back towards Allendale.

The first section was the main climb, so it was heads down and into a steady pace uphill out of Allendale for 2k, before taking the track out across the moors towards Stobb Cross and Hangman Hill, presumably memorial sites to previous Hobblers who didn't make it. Running in the deeper snow provided the better grip especially on the road sections, but in the heather and single track you never quite knew where your feet were landing (well, from my point of view anyway!). The field had spread out almost immediately but navigation was never an issue given the great views, even though I was mostly looking down at where the next step was going to fall.

At the next turn, just below Hangman Hill, the path climbed steadily before levelling out then dropping down to the road junction at King's Law. From there the route headed west back towards Allendale but the cold wind made running harder even though there was a good stretch of slippery downhill before the final steep climb. This final climb was possibly the hardest and definitely the steepest so I resorted to a mouthful of jelly babies, which just about got me to the top before the final moorland stretch back towards Allendale. The last mile or so was a steady downhill road section to the finish point at Allendale school where plenty of tea and cakes awaited us!

This was my first fell race for the Striders and thoroughly enjoyable, though the snow and sunny weather did help ;-) Well-organised by the Allen Valley Striders and great cakes and spot prizes for a few at the end! Well done to all the Striders who skated and hobbled round the course.

Results

Pos Name Club Cat Pos Time
1 BUIS, James Heaton Harriers M 1:11:27
10 HORSLEY, Will M 1:21:44
25 JACKSON, Claire Allen Valley StridersFV40 1 1:28:42
30 GARLAND, James M 1:30:17
79 NISBET, Dougie MV40 1:46:13
92 YOUNG, Jan FV50 1:54:24
93 ROBSON, Alistair M 1:54:34
96 SHIPMAN, David MV50 1:55:44

122 finishers.

Clay Bank East, North Yorks Moors, 9th January

5.8m / 870'

Nigel Heppell

I arrived late, to find Tom and about 60 other runners already lined up and ready to go. Fresh snowfall and hard frost overnight made the conditions quite interesting underfoot as we climbed up the steep hill towards Urra Moor. I learnt early on that there was a sinister layer of sheet ice hiding under the top cover of loose snow over most of the trail. The trick was to run to one side in amongst the heather but the temptation to go for the open track was hard to resist and a lot of runners found themselves sprawling on the ground at one time or another during this race, in fact the two ladies who fell over 4 times each were awarded prizes later on.

Nigel beats the scrum at the gate.

If you could manage to take your eyes off the ground for a second or two the views of the snow-clad moors were stunning on this bright sunny day. On the long (2k), steady haul up to the Mound Hill waypoint the surface of the broad track offered ridged ice in the middle, a crusty concoction on the left with the risk of breakthrough, and undulating drifts to the right. It was difficult to pick a runnable line.

Striding out back downhill on a gentle snowy slope it became obvious that we were running down what was really a drift-filled stream bed as there was evidence in one or two places where someone's leg had gone through to the darkness below. Tom got caught by this and was proudly displaying his battle-scarred thigh when I eventually arrived at the finish. The last steep descent off the escarpment saw a lot of runners carefully picking their way down the Cleveland Way path but it seemed obvious to me to go straight down through the heather and I manage to pick off quite a few this way. Evidently, the finish was in a different location to the start due to ice, etc, and a deviation to the original route had been devised but only a few people managed to follow it properly so there was some discussion as to the significance of this. The organiser, Dave Parry, announced that the variations were permissible and the bulk of the field had followed each other in any event.

Tom had a strong run and came in not far behind the V40 leader while I bagged next to top points in the V55 category. DFR won just about everything else and staggered off with a few crates of wine bottles.

Addendum: I forgot to mention that Tom's wife Joan also ran this race and deserves an honourable mention for being one of the few who followed the proper course: the rest of us cheated by cutting off a corner.

Results

Pos Name Club Cat Pos Time
1 Duncan Archer DFR M 39.45
26 Tom Reeves MV40 5 45.53
52 Nigel Heppell MV55 2 52.25
85 Joan Hanson Honorary Strider FV40 5 61.13

104 finishers.

NE Counties X/C Championships, South Shields, 8th January

Mudman & Mudwoman

Mid-day on Saturday was bright and sunny, if a little cold, for the Striders who assembled at Temple Park for the re-scheduled NE Counties x/c championships. The club was well represented by nine men and seven women many of whom were proudly wearing their new Striders' hoodies (well done Denise). Conditions underfoot varied from deep mud, shallow mud over perma-frost, frozen grass & icy puddles. The course was similar to that for the Harrier League only longer. Fields were slightly down on recent Harrier Leagues although we were joined by runners from foreign climes such as Middlesborough, Marske, Hartlepool, Darlington etc.

The men's start.

Runners were keen to get going after having been deprived of their x/c fix for so long and I'm sure I heard Mike Bennett growl at me as he went past on the first lap of three. Competition was hot throughout the field and Striders men were led home by Phil Sanderson in a very credible 14th position. The men's team, laced with many super-vets including Mudman himself, finished in 17th place out of 21.

Striders women packing nicely.

The women, kept waiting for their start as usual, performed very well and were led home by the baby of the team, Keri, who finished in 28th place. There were a number of sprint finishes for the line not least by Mudwoman who took two scalps in a frantic final dash. The women's team finished in an excellent joint 6th place out of 15 (published results to be corrected).

So, we're finally up and running again on the cross country front. For those of you who weren't there yesterday you missed a great race but you'll soon have a chance to get back into the action at the Northerns (if you've entered!) on 29th Jan, The National on the 19th Feb and the next Harrier League (Wrekenton) on 26th Feb. See you there.

Results

Men
PosNameClubCatTime
1 Lewis Timmins Morpeth Harriers 39.34
14 Phil Sanderson 43.42
103 Mike Bennett 53.28
117 Geoff Davis 54.05
139 Conrad White 55.39
183 David Gibson 60.19
188 Richard Hockin 60.45
193 Dougie Nisbet 62.05
208 Alister Robson 65.39
221 David Robson 69.35

231 finishers. Men's Team 17th of 21.

Women
PosNameClubCatTime
1 Kirsty Legg Middlesbrough AC 30.04
28 Keri Pearson 37:18
37 Fiona Shenton 37.41
45 Nina Mason 38.46
54 Susan Davis 40.21
58 Debs Goddard 40.52
63 Jan Young 41.15
87 Joanne Porter 46.24

92 finishers. Women's Team joint 6th of 15.

Nine Standards Fell Race, Kirkby Stephen, 1st January

8m / 1800' BM

Dougie Nisbet

Feeling like a naughty child Mr (and Mrs) Dougie hit the A66 westbound to Kirkby Stephen for the Nine Standards Fell Race. I've never fancied the 'long queues' of Captain Cooks, and Hillforts and Headaches is just a bit too brutal and too short. Besides, I've always been a sucker for races with enchanting names and enticing waypoints.

Arriving at Kirkby Stephen I certainly knew I'd crossed the mountains into another valley. Everyone seemed to know everyone else, where to be and where to go except me. I finally found registration in the social club next to the bank and was slightly alarmed to see sinewy athletes earnestly copying route features onto colour-me-in blank maps. Surely we just, you know, went out, up towards them nine pointy things, and came back down again? Was I missing something? Then there was the large sign saying that kit checks would be made at the Start. I was now felling quite uneasy; my kit contained, well, whatever it contained the last time I did a fell race. That could be anything. I've not looked in a while ...

At the Start I was comforted to see Denise Tunstall from DFR. Finally a familiar face. She's an old hand at this race and gave me some top tips. I was delighted to see that as 95 runners lined up to start, there was one slightly mystified but curious old wifie who was out for her paper had paused to watch what was going on. That was the crowd. This was a proper fell race.

A mile into the race, climbing hard and about a dozen places from the back I was where I expected to be. Easing of a little before a kissing gate I paused for a bit of a productive cough and was startled when it transformed into a spasm of pain that travelled right down my back and thankfully stopped before it got anywhere embarrassing. I stopped in my tracks, breathless and terrified. The marshalls were watching me closely as I leaned against the fence making shouty noises that even Alister Robson would have nodded at with approval. Things settled down and I pulled myself together and realised that I wasn't about to die, but had just got unlucky with a cough and a sore back that had rather melodramatically decided to meet on a blind date. I told the marshalls I'd walk a little then see how I felt. By the this time I was about three minutes behind the back marker and was beginning to regret my disdain at paying so little regard to the course map.

I walk/jogged the next mile trying to decide whether I'd retired or not, and at the top of a brae I surveyed the scene ahead. I could see the nine-standards, and, oh joy, I could see the back marker. He was about 3 minutes ahead and wearing a bright yellow top with the words "Do you feel lucky, punk?" on the back. I was good to go. One of the great things about being at the back of the field is the only way is up. Quite literally in the case of Nine Standards.

If you've not done this race before it's a good run. Probably far more tarmac than you're expecting, but a nice distance; not too long, not too short. And there's something rather special about running around the summit before a grand charge back home.

Watching the prize ceremony over a cup of soup and a pint of Guinness, there was laughter at the announcement that there'd been 95 finishers, with 94 runners counted around the Standards. The ladies team prize looked like it'd be unclaimed, but two teams of two ladies held up their hands, the prize going to Todmorden, because they'd travelled the furthest! Executive decision making at its best.

Happy New Year, 1st January

1 day

The Webmasters...

... wish everyone a very happy New Year.

Here's to a great year of running.

Hardmoors 30, Ravenscar, 1st January

30m / 3600'

Dave Robson

'Good cross country training' said one runner after this one. And he was definitely right, it turned out to be a bit of a mudfest. My Kandidas didn't cope well with that much mud and I was left regretting that I hadn't used mudclaws.

The race started by going south along the Cleveland Way from Ravenscar and that section of about 4m was fine. There was a steep descent to Hayburn Wake and out the other side where the race organiser was waiting at the first checkpoint in a field. As we left the checkpoint we had a view of the field and he was attempting to move his car and he was getting seriously stuck, so three of us went back to help him. As other runners came to the checkpoint, they came and helped as well. It took six of us fifteen minutes to get him out and in that time we all got covered in mud from spinning car wheels. A complete comedy moment, but it did relieve any concerns about the 7 hour cut off being enforced!

My expectation was about 6 hours. What I hadn't realised was that after Hayburn the railway lines climbed back to Ravenscar. That was harder than I had expected. We then went north to Robin Hood's Bay and that section was fine. Then after Robin Hood's Bay there must have been a two mile climb along the railway line with no respite. I tried to run sections but most of it was walked. Finally, the climb stopped and the descent into Whitby was lovely.

I was still on for about 6hr at this point. Found the Whitby checkpoint and had a cliffbar - these are great, I had some the at the Hardmoors 55m and haven't seen once since, I must get some.

It was fun dodging and weaving round the shoppers in Whitby and there were a few strange looks.

Once I had climbed all the steps and gone past the abbey I was back on the Cleveland Way. The wind was behind us and I was expecting to get to Robin Hood's Bay in 2 hours. It took 3 hours. It was very muddy and much more undulating than I remembered. It was also much longer than I remembered and the headland I needed to get to seemed a long way away. There were also three or four places where I was soaked by seawater even though we were 150 feet above the sea Those places were just a quagmire. About thirty minutes before Robin Hood's Bay my head torch came out. I had been expecting to run the last hour in the dark (the race didn't start until 11), but I was still 90 minutes away from the finish when I had to use the torch. This slowed me down even more.

Robin Hood's Bay to Ravenscar is only about 4 to 5 miles but I knew it was tough. The climb out of Robin Hood's Bay is hard then there are two up and downs before a long climb up to Ravenscar. The runnable parts were very muddy and it was hard to make progress, so little running was done.

Finally made it back with an elapsed time of 7 hours 6 minutes, which allowing for the mud shower at checkpoint 1, left me within the cutoff, but only just. I was 28th out of 29 finishers. The last person was over an hour after me. It was a bit of a lonely race, I had not seen anyone after mile 13!

This was more than made up for when I entered the Race HQ. There were about 25 people eating and drinking in there and they all stopped what they were doing and gave me an enormous round of applause Ultra runners are lovely and it was just what I needed after a very tough race.

Sadly Phil Owen had to pull out after 10m because of problems with his foot. Anna Seeley had a good run and was back in about 6hr 25min. Will had a fantastic run, he was third in a time of round about 4hr 40min !

Grand Prix Race. King/Queen of the Mountain Race.

Captain Cooks, Great Ayton,NYM, 1st January

5.3m / 885'

Shaun Roberts

Arriving at Great Ayton, after the usual struggle to get out of bed, there didn't look to be much snow on the moors - yet the Esk Valley website had put some photos up from a recce the day before, which showed loads of snow still lying about. So it turned out - not that the snow was much of a problem - it was the sheets of ice in a couple of places that had to be skated over very carefully. Despite queues out of the door of the Royal Oak from an hour before the start, we set off on time ...

Shaun, Nigel, Nina, Tom, Graham, Mike, Jan, David, Claire, Dave and Keri before the off. The usual fast road start, then as we turned off to head for the monument, we had the first sheets of ice, near a farm. Very awkward. I'd been trying to keep up with Keri, ahead, but she pulled away here. Climbing through fields, there was now quite a bit of drifted snow (see photo, below, of Claire). We ended up on the final climb up to the monument, with everyone walking up hands on knees. Good to get running again at the top - I'd expected the paving section on the way back to be very slippy, but there was plenty of space here to get on the grass, so it wasn't too bad.

Then a good fast descent on the broad track - as we turned off this, Nina went past me, going very well, then as we descended steeply off the hill, David Gibson did the same, but perhaps a tad too fast, as he ended up on his backside! He was fine, though - he was the only one I saw going over, actually. Graham now went past, helpfully pointing out "I see you're still descending like an old woman with a zimmer frame". He was quite right, though I was blaming my aching knee for a bit of that. For his part, I thought he was doing well to get that lot out in one breath!

Claire wading through the snow.

Now we could get a head of steam up as it levelled out a bit, but this time Nigel went past. I was very pleased to get onto a bit of tarmac now, went past Nigel again, extolling the virtues of this reliable running surface. I took a quick gander at my Garmin here, to see I was doing 5:40 minute-miling! That was more like it. I had quite a good run in to the finish, despite more ice and snow on the way back - thought I may have seen Graham, David or Nina on the way back, but it didn't happen.

Then off to the pub in Stokesley for a pint and a good meal - a great start to the year.

Nigel adds ...

At one point on the ice through the farmyard I thought I'd joined the cast of 'Riverdance' - surrounded by a bunch of tippy-tappy, high-stepping mincers - and then there was a bit of formation line-dancing as another group ahead of me on the moor top leapt from one side of a runnel to the other in unison and back again, with all the flowing grace of a Widdecombe.

After you took off past me down the tarmac bit (yuk), I was barrelling along with a couple of more sensible folk when ahead of us on the roadway lay a pair of quality runners gloves; there was a tiny, fractional moment where we three runners simultaneously thought "I'm havin' those", followed one step later by "some poor runner has lost those beautiful gloves, probably a Christmas present, I'd better collect them and take them to the finish line" followed one further step later by "If I stop now and try to bend down a) my back will give out, b) my head will explode, c) I'll never get up again, and d) I'll struggle to get running again; and so, with a furtive sidelong glance to each other and without breaking our stride we passed them by and left it for some other kind soul to return them to their rightful owner. Such are the joys of being a V55.

Didn't the girls do well!

Note: now that six of the thirteen NYM Winter Series fell races have been completed, the current positions in each age category are now online (link, below). Tom is leading the MV40s (well done, mate!), I'm 13th in the MV50s, Nigel's 11th in the MV55s, and Jan is 2nd in the FV55s. Plenty of races to go to pick up some more points ...

Results

Pos Name Club Cat Pos Time
1 Paul Lowe North York Moors MV40 33.45
19 Morag Stead Morpeth Harriers F 1 38.53
55 Tom Reeves MV40 7 41.17
67 Mike Bennett MV55 3 41.51
90 Keri Pearson F 5 44.03
107 Nina Mason F 6 45.16
108 David Gibson MV40 17 45.22
109 Graham Daglish MV55 5 45.23
121 Shaun Roberts MV50 16 46.35
123 Nigel Heppell MV55 7 46.38
154 Jan Young FV55 2 49.44
181 David Shipman MV50 23 54.08
196 Claire Readey F 11 60.30

205 finishers. Well done to the Striders Ladies for finishing first.