Friday, 1 June 2012

The lay of the Land

Welcome to my new blog

I think I've needed this change for awhile, but the final idea came to me - appropriately enough - as I ran down Spout Hill, near Brantingham in the Wolds, with sweat streaming down my face during the recent mini-heatwave.

Mt.Airey, near South Cave

After a great 2010 where I racked up my first 50 and 100 mile ultra-trail, 2011 wasn't a further springboard, a mix of joy and disappointment. The latter probably a result of resting on my laurels a bit in training. But one of the undoubted highlights of 2011 was running the Wolds Way - this really made me appreciate what I have nearby. But how can running here prepare me for... big challenge of the year?

Which is the TDS (Sur les Traces des Ducs de Savoie) of course. A circa-70m ultra trail event in the Alps, which is part of the series of - and I like to think of it as the "tough little brother" of - the 100m+ Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc (UTMB). I only managed 60m of the beast that is the UTMB last year, so how am I going to complete 70m of an event which packs in an extra 30 or so foot-per-mile than the UTMB (at about 330 feet-per-mile up and down)?

What I'm doing in the Wolds

So in preparation for 2012's challenges I've used this landscape of short sharp hills and v-shaped dry valleys to form the bulk of my training. Getting away to further flung fields and hills when I can and to add a variety of other landscape challenges.

Within 10 miles of Hull you can pick up the
High Hunsley Beacon on the Wolds Way
southern edge of the Wolds where the land rises from the Humber at North Ferriby. This fairly narrow range of hillocks and mini-valleys between two plains then extends through the villages of Swanland, Melton, Welton, Elloughton, Brantingham and South Cave. This is where I do the majority of my training popping up and down the small cols and dale walls, often using parts of the Wolds Way. North of here the gaps open up to form one of the most sparsely populated areas of the country.

Up towards Bishop Wilton, Millington and Thixendale the Wolds are at their highest - reaching a "dizzying" 807ft, but offering plenty of back to back climbs - some over 300ft - to make for a fun and tough run. I've had many an interesting run up here for the small price of a 40 minute drive. Once recently I fit 14 climbs and descents in as many miles - without doing reps!

And what I'm not

Long views over the plains
As my target events both involve quite big hills, even mountains, I'm often dale-hopping like a mad man to try and accumulate lots of climb in every mile. But try as I might, it's hard to surpass 200 foot-per-mile (fpm) over any distance in this area without serious hill reps.

So, as in previous years I've been taking on LDWA challenges and shorter ultra's all around Yorkshire, especially the hillier parts. But even events like these don't quite match up to the 330ft per mile standard I'll be taking on at the end of August - and thats 330ft up and down per mile over 70 miles. An example of this is a few of the longer events I've done so far this year:

Rombalds Stride (LDWA Challenge, West Yorks) - 22m - 122 fpm

Golden Fleece Circuit (LDWA Challenge, East Yorks) - 28m - 55 fpm
Wuthering Hike (West Yorks)- 32m - 147 fpm
Hardmoors 55 (North Yorks) - 54m - 165 fpm

Blubberhouses 25 (LDWA Challenge, North Yorks) - 24m - 106 fpm
Calderdale Hike (West Yorks) - 37m - 157 fpm
The Woldsman (East Yorks) - 50m - 95 fpm

Lonely, lovely Thixendale on the Wolds Way

So where to go?.........

How about the Lake District. And a great excuse was being asked by Jon Steele to support a leg or two of his Bob Graham Round attempt. Click the link for more detail, but the Bob Graham round is a popular, but very tough challange of bagging 42 peaks over around 63 miles in the lake district. And some of these peaks are the biggee's too - Scafell Pike, its near as mighty neighbour Scafell, Helvellyn, Ill Crag, Broad Crag, Skiddaw,... in fact all of the top ten highest peaks in England (the run is only interrupted by Cross Fell which is out of reach in the North Pennines). All of this amasses an impressive 412 fpm - "I'll have me some of that"


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