Claire Cobley

Old County Tops (it's a fell race and a half...)

OCT (Old County Tops) 18th May 2019.

I write my notes and thoughts as to the Old County Tops fell race, organised and laid on by Achille Ratti club (And the race “laid” a number of us out, especially my quads.)

Gareth on the way to Scafell Pike summit.

The race has been established for a number of years (since 1988) and is legendary in the fell running calendar. It is 37 miles long as you run the highest peaks in the current and old counties of Lancashire, Cumberland, and Westmorland. The peaks are Helvellyn first, the Scafell Pike, and lastly the Old Man of Coniston. There is a cumulative climb of 10k feet across the race. It is not just the distance, or the climb, it is the fact it is the Lakes where the sport originated from and the climbing is of a different kind altogether; steep, off road, challenging, ongoing, relentless. The descent is worse (for me anyway) especially as your legs grow more and more tired. But is an amazing experience, and my second time running it.

We arrived at Baysbrown Farm to stay at a wonderful campsite in the Langdale Valley at Chapel Stile, with the Langdale range looming over us. Cracking. It was Minty’s second big trip out and we were getting the hang of being campervan enthusiasts (“Perverts” as I used to call them. Oh well I am in my 40’s and now own one.) Minty the VW T6 campervan is bright green, hence the name. Full name is Minty McMint Face in homage to Claire’s Scottish roots. And it is brilliant (no gender is ascribed to Minty.)

Anyway back to the race… Actually 37 mile ordeal. My running partner is the solid and reliable Mr Gareth Evans. This is one of the challenges of the race, you run with a partner as a pair. You have to pace each other, push each other on, make navigational decisions together, and ultimately not get timed out and finish the race.

So we met up at Old Dungeon Gill around 7.30am, Gareth having driven up that morning after a 4am get up. I felt sorry for him. But this is Gareth Evans aka “Ginger Ninja”. I felt somewhat sorry for “Metal Dick” (Richard Mackey) who’d driven up that morning as well, but hey he’s a teacher and as hard as nails. (Both drove the two hours back after the race.) It was an 8am start and I was not nervous, in fact relaxed. What was going on? Other people were nervous. Minty and the support crew were on standby (Claire yakking away, Ted licking his privates.) We were summoned to the start, but prior to that nerves arose due to needing a number 2. I was in the queue for the four portaloos having realised that I did not fancy running 37 miles with something on Gas Mark 8 slow baking. Panic was setting in and it did not help that “Chatterbox” (Alice Mclean) was squealing behind me that she needed a number 1. The race organiser reassured us he would not start the race whilst we were on the throne.

Start and finish.

And so we were off… Also running from the club were Andy Poole with a friend, as was Sandrine Fraisse. It was pleasant running toward Helvellyn but we did notice that it was a bit humid and this was to play a factor in the race, sapping strength and making the running uncomfortable. The climb to Helvellyn was straightforward even on the steep climb up to Dollywaggon Pike; from there to the summit, where the first cheerful summit photo was taken. Little did we know that it was all going to get interesting from this point onward. At this point we had climbed 1,176 metres, and were 9 miles in of the 37 total. You’ll note from the photo that the summit was clag bound and it was quite chilly.

The “happy couple”.

Descending off Helvellyn is a swine, it is steep and ongoing and hard on the quads. It was here that Sandrine and Lisa, Alice and Richard all bumped into each other. All heading to the second checkpoint where food and drink was laid on.

After hitting the second checkpoint at Wythburn (southern end of Thirlmere) we had a drink but did not hang around and shot off, leaving the others at the checkpoint. However we ground to a halt when my partner need to “drop the kids off at the pool” before we hit the road crossing for the climb to Angle Tarn. So, I stood there with runners passing explaining I was waiting for my partner and yes I knew the route. After 5 minutes I got bored and started to use all the variations in my vocabulary: “my partner’s having a poo, It’s okay I am waiting for a bus, he’s dropping the kids off at the pool, he’s dropping his shopping, I’m holding the gate open for you all...” After a while Grizzly Adams popped out of the pine forest looking pleased. Off we went, by now Alice and Richard, Sandrine and Lisa had got ahead. We caught up with Lisa and Sandrine and we ran with them for a while, with Alice’s bright red backpack followed by The Mackey not too far ahead.

It is a long slog as you aim for High Raise, but skirt around it en route to Angle Tarn. It is 7-8 miles climb from the road crossing on the A591 and it goes on and on and on with some of the climb steep especially the Greenup Edge part where we hit droves of charity walkers.

It was hot and humid in the valley and this wore runners down, so close that I took my long sleeved top off and ran with my club vest. On reaching Angle Tarn the temperature dropped and the top had to go back on; it was quite variable weather on the day.

The climb to Greenup Edge beneath High Raise.

As we closed down on Angle Tarn Gareth was struggling and had nothing in his legs. Not too long ago Gareth had lost a month of training to shin splints, which completely upset his progress. He’d recently crammed in a lot of running and climbing so he could make the race, and I think he certainly did not want to let me down. I honestly think others would have bailed by Angle Tarn at a manned checkpoint. He didn’t. After a rest he set off for the climb up. From Angle it is a long section to Esk Hause, then Broad Crag, and then Scafell Pike. It is hot at this point, dry and hard underfoot, with lots of charity walkers looking at you, and Gareth plodded on. I was concerned as he did not look great.

(At Angle Tarn Claire had arranged to meet us with Ted as support. No wife, no dog. Worry shifted to memories of the Trigger - see previous blog. Was Gareth a jinx?)

We headed up past Esk Hause and saw Sandrine chatting with someone. My initial reaction was she’d picked upon some hapless charity walker. But on seeing a little four legged fur ball head for me lead dragging behind him, I knew we’d reached support. We both plonked down on stones to munch cocktail sausages, cheese blocks, tomatoes, and beef butties, plus water.

It was at this point that we had a failure of the “entente cordiale” as Sandrine cuddled Ted whilst he had a close eye on the beef butties. Ted being distracted by this, decided to take “Brexit” action and chomped on Sandrine. Our French colleague was fine and brushed it off. Ted brushed with near certain death under a steely Scottish glare.

Big thanks to the support team as the food went down a treat

Off we trudged to Scafell Pike to arrive on the top to a proverbial party or rave or gathering. Boy, it was busy with walkers, charity walkers. It is hard going across the rocky landscape of Broad Crag and Scafell Pike. But we made the summit and had a rest whilst figuring out the descent into Great Moss and the river crossing. The route off Scafell Pike is notorious as there are sheer drops from crags, and you are advised to recce the route and if not to retrace your steps to between the Pike and Broad Crag and take the safer if longer option down. Gareth and I took a breath and went for it and we reckon planned a near perfect route down through the crags, with some scrambling, to look back and see other runners stuck and having to retrace steps, costly.

At Scafell Pike summit we were 20 miles in of the 37 miles and had climber 2,321 metres.

Yet again the descent is a quad buster and you hit the river plateau somewhat broken and tired. We stopped at a beck had a drink and refilled the bottles and made our way for Moasdale Beck for the checkpoint at Cockley Beck. The route is long, undulates, and boggy in places, wearing down tired legs. It was at this point Gareth got stuck in a bog. I photographed him for a laugh thinking he could get out. He could not and I had to use my full force to help him get his submerged and stuck left leg out.

Leg deep in a bog.

We got to Cockley Beck around 3.30pm, so roughly 45 minutes before the cut off where you will be pulled from the race for safety reasons. The next cut off is the finish where you have to complete the race before 8pm. So you have 12 hours to run the 37 miles and climb the 10,000 feet.

We plonked on the side of the road at the excellent checkpoint where there is hot tea and cake. I gorged myself on fruit cake and tea, and you do this as you have an absolute ball breaker and shocker of a climb to the last peak Coniston, via Grey Friar.

A brew and a sit down at Cockley Beck, junction of Wrynose and Hardknott Passes.

Gareth again could have bailed but did not. I was seeing the Ginger Ninja legend in action. A brute, a fell runner, a nutter setting off up a big hill will awful false summits. It was 4pm when we set off and we reached just below the summit ready for the trot to Coniston at roughly 4.45pm. We’d not stopped once. We were on a mission.

You then plod to the Old Man of Coniston summit and what’s nice is you pass faster runners on their way back to where you are at Grey Friar as they head for the Three Shires Stone on the Wrynose Pass. We exchanged cheerful hellos with all runners, everyone grinning and encouraging each other.

We made the summit and checkpoint, exchanging conversation with the marshals, whilst having sweets and water. We’d nailed it, we knew so, as it is all (sort of) downhill from Coniston. It’s a long drag back round the back of Swirl How and the Carrs, but worth it as you are rewarded with beautiful twilight views. Team morale was at a high and more so after Coniston when we hit 30 miles!

At Coniston we had made 29 miles of the 37 and climbed 3,081 metres.

We now made the run back, about 6-7 miles, down to the Wrynose Pass to meet the last checkpoint at the Three Shires Stone. It is a hard descent on tired, quad poor legs, but Me Evans excelled again spotting a runners trod that nicely contoured us down to the road. I looked back to see other runners high above us. We had some water and sweets at the checkpoint and then began the two or so mile steep run down the pass. It was at this point that Gareth suddenly stopped as the sweets literally came back up and he honked his guts up; nothing I could do. I genuinely felt for him. But he recovered and carried on!!!

Off we toddled, chatting away. And the last stretch on bridleway past Blea Tarn was wonderful; quiet, the smell of pine forest and cool.

Blea Tarn bridleway.

We hit the road into Old Dungeon Gill, then cutting through the fields to exit via the Great Langdale National Trust campsite much to the bemused look of non-runners. From there is about a mile up to the road to the finish. We were buzzing.

National Trust campsite in the forest below.

And thus we finished!

STRAVA: https://www.strava.com/activities/2381533737

FLICKR: https://www.flickr.com/gp/petercobley/2Y9tx2

We were greeted to big smiles and cheers by runners, helpers, spectators, and fellow Saddleworth Runners; all cheering and exclaiming. We were glad to have finished, big grins from Wifey and jumps of joy from Ted.

The finish!

Synopsis

It is a tough race, but highly recommended. The route is tough but rewarding, the atmosphere among runners excellent, and great fun running with a partner in crime,

But do train for it.




The many names of the "green thing".

The weekend just gone was an adventure, a big adventure, plus a few arguments as we set sail in our new campervan. The VW T6 Transporter 2017, converted by the lovely people over at Camperversions in Darwen. What though ought to be it’s name?

On Friday we had arranged to head over to Darwen to pick up the campervan, and this meant a busy day for me as I worked hard, with Claire returning from school as soon as she could; so armed with Ted we set off as soon as we could to beat the rush hour traffic and be there for 4/4.15pm. We set off later than planned and made it by 4.45pm and Mark the salesman kindly hung on. Excited was not even a description…

Mark briefed us on the van and its various bits, which went in one ear and out of the other in the excitement, especially the bit about the “Captain’s Chair” at the front and how it swivels around. More on this to come. And so I was off, driving a LWB T6 through rush hour traffic on a Friday back to Mossley with Claire following in Pierre the Peugeot with Ted riding shotgun… Stress was high.

We made it back and then proceeded to throw items for an overnight stay into the van - name yet to be decided. Were we mad? Both were dog tired and it would involve a night drive to North Lees campsite just north of Hathersage, a favourite place of ours in the Peak District National Park. A drive across the Snake Pass to arrive in the pitch dark…

Saturday morning, Ted and the T6 in the distance.

By the time we arrived it must have been around 9pm, it was dark, and people were bedding down for bed especially the group of DOE/school children next to where we settled down. We were both tired and it had been an arduous journey down the Snake Pass in the dark especially with a twit of a tailgating car behind us. The drive had been stressful and I was at my wits end. We had tried to contact someone to let them know of late arrival but to no avail. On arrival the T6 found it’s berth and we began to sort it out.

The main bone of contention was the loss of Ted’s lead (found by neighbours) and the flamin’ swivel seat. I was trying to swivel it the wrong way and had not learnt the knack of doing so, and caused some slight scrapping on the side wall. Words were exchanged but we eventually got there. By now it was 10.15pm, and we had probably disturbed the people next to us with constant banging and door opening.

One thing I had not mentioned was the fact we’d not eaten, and I’d not eaten all day… There was hangriness in the air. So off we tromped armed with a Ted and headtorches across the fields to old Hathersage and The Scotsman’s Pack pub, accepting it was crisps only.

On arrival, the landlord was able to sell us a large pork pie and sausage roll. Food! We drank and chomped away. It is a lovely pub that we have been in before, the only downside that night being some local drunks who wanted to play with Ted, which is a big no no; something Claire pointed out only to get some verbal abuse. Sigh… The lovely landlord though made up for this, a nice caring chap. A walk back on the fields and it was into bed.

A wife, a dog, and no room for me.

Sleeping was non-existent as it was the first night in the van on the M1 bed. Claire constantly rolled into me, and Ted sneaked between us and took my pillow. The bed? Really comfy and plenty of room; just need to sort out the bed companions.

We were greeted to the morning and brewed up and this was when the van came into its own, as we were watched by the cold tent people who also had to drop their tents in the damp.

We drove into town and had a nice breakfast at the Colemans Deli, again a favourite of ours.

It was then time to don the walking gear and head out into the hills. The sun was beaming and it was hot, a beautiful morning as we decided to walk a loop out to and near North Lees and than back, with Claire then heading out for a swim whilst I “Ted sat”.

It was a great day out and allowed me to pick up a Mother’s Day present for later on when Mum and Mike headed over for a dinner cooked by Claire on Sunday. There was no way we were able to get back in time to park the van at Mossley Caravan Storage, where we’d arranged storage, so on return we loving stowed the gear and cleaned the van to then store it at a local business called Rivergate Developments who had kindly given us the code to their gate. Van stored, it was onto dinner at Steve and Sally’s in Delph with tired body and mind, which turned out to be a belter of a night and a great way to relax. We said goodbye, headed home, and weary bones hit the sack. I was and am fond of my bed at this point.

A tired PC climbed out of bed Sunday for a run in the hills with Tom Osman (who pealed off at Ashway Gap), Jon Allen, and John Haigh. It was an 8.30am start for us to run the Saddleworth Round and I was apprehensive to say the least on tired legs and still exhausted. It was a cold and windy start, and the wind continued all the way to Laddow Rocks, but dropping down to Cotton Famine from Black Hill saw the wind quell and the sun come out and us witness a bright, warm moorland afternoon.

Strava: https://www.strava.com/activities/2254490839

It was back home after coffee at the Cross Keys Pub where we started from, to help Claire get the dinner and house ready for Mum and Mike. Thankfully Claire had managed to get out on her bike.

The meal was excellent and all of us had a nice relaxed time by way of closing off the weekend.

Deciding upon the many names of the “green thing”

So far I have referred to the campervan as the T6, Campervan, or Green Thing. But it is also called Sid Snot (in my homage to Kenny Everett), or the Dadmobile. Claire has used the Green Goddess. We have both used Minty McMint Face… Which one, which one?

Strolling on the moors... Thursday's cheerful post.

Yesterday early evening my two buddies (wife and dug) and I meandered across part of the Cake Race route in the hills above Marsden and Diggle. What a wonderful evening in a blaze of colour showing the Saddleworth Moors at their best.

Looking toward Pule Hill and Redbrook Reservoir.

Claire, Ted, and I wandered up to Brun Clough on the Pennine Way and made our way toward Black Moss reservoir above Diggle. A favourite of ours for walking Ted.

Pano shot looking at Black Moss and away - all in one photo.





A 50th, A broken bike and ride, The C-Bomb. (And the PIG!)

An eclectic weekend in my humble opinion that saw bike purchases, tiredness, a broken chain, a cinema to ourselves, and great usage of the C-Bomb, not to mention a great 50th for a lovely fella (even if he is a grump.)

Olivia Coleman

Saturday saw an early start with a Ted walk and breakfast followed by a trip to Evans Cycles and Decathlon for swimming and cycling gear at the National Cycling Centre. Some great bargains at the Evans and we picked up some nice clothing, and I’m very happy with my Fox long sleeved top with a perforated fabric; reckon it will double up for running. One highlight was watching the nutters on the BMX track, which I’ve never seen, practice starts. It was amazing to see the fluidity with which they cycled.

BMX bandits!

We retreated home for a sleep and then put the glad rags on for the occasion of the weekend. The 50th birthday bash of Nick Gregory, aka Grumpy. A longstanding and ex-member of Macclesfield Round Table, great Dad to Tom and Will (speaking of Tom, how tall is he now?!?!) and hubby to the ace Rebecca. Affectionately known by those in the know as “Grumpy”.

Flickr photos

A rare occasion of smiling when giving a sermon to the Great Unwashed.

A genuinely lovely fella and what a great bash with local band, Monkey Harris, belting out some smashing Madchester Indie tunes for the 40/50 somethings, which sent The Boss into dance mode with others and note you youngsters all the “shapes” that were being made.

Sunday saw what we call in the trade, a “non-bike ride” as The Boss and I headed off in miserable weather for a long bike ride. On nearly reaching Grains Bar about 4/5 miles in my road chain blew up and yours truly was stranded in freezing wind. The Boss shot of to get Pierre the Peugeot for recovery whilst I walked and free wheeled to the Roebuck pub, which he’d never been into. And what a lovely pub that is dog friendly and clearly serves nice food. A coffee was ordered whilst waiting and to thaw out, with The Boss eventually joining for a cup of tea. Back home for chores and then back out again to return clothing at Blacks on Deansgate, and the purchase of 10 speed (idiot boy managed to purchase a 11 speed) chain, followed by food at My Thai, and then the Print Works for a showing of The Favourite.

My Thai on John Dalton Street (some Scottish Bird)

Now, onto The Favourite. Firstly we got to Vue at the Print Works to have a whole screen to ourselves. The film was great and recommended, and you can surely read up on it. This point was and is the use of the C-Bomb which was both impressive and astounding. I may go back and watch the film solo just to count how many times it was used…

The C-Bomb seating.

One thing also worthy of mention was the fact it was Chinese New Year celebrations on Sunday, officially Tuesday was new year, and celebrations kicked off Thursday. We were greeted after the Thai food to an explosion of fireworks and I reminisced about my Pig encounter in St Anne’s Square on Friday. Long live The Pig!








Prostate Cancer UK, A Talk, Tony Collier.

Yesterday night, which was Tuesday night, was the normal club training night for the Saddleworth Runners but also saw a speech after the running given by fellow runner Tony Collier on prostate cancer.

A speech by Tony Collier.

I did not run last night as I was recovering from the Trigger fell race, but wanted to catch Tony’s talk and I am glad I did.

Tony Collier

Tony is an inspirational runner and a founder of Styal Running Club, who to date has run 20 marathons across the world, whilst running his own accountancy business.

He is also suffering from incurable prostate cancer and gave a very informative presentation on this form of cancer that afflicts men and is much more common than people really realise, a silent killer, and not oft spoken about by men.

Prostate Cancer UK is the charity Tony was speaking on behalf on.

  • It is the most common form of cancer in men.

  • In the UK, about 1 in 8 men will suffer from this cancer.

  • The number of men dying from prostate cancer every year has for the first time overtaken the number of women dying from breast cancer making it the third biggest cancer killer in the UK, official statistics reveal. Read more at: https://inews.co.uk/news/health/prostate-breast-cancer-third-biggest-killer/

The big thing for me is how common prostate problems are and become in men as they get older. Tony was trying to emphasise that the goal for the charity is to raise awareness and strive for a screening test, as the big issue is there is no effective screening for this common cancer. It slips past people and is sinister.

Worth reading about! I would strongly advise any male to make sure they do as my eyes were fully opened.

A Wonderful Christmas.

Christmas was very pleasant with Mother over for dinner on the day, then Boxing Day saw us head up to Hamilton with the in-laws. 28th December saw us fly out to NYC to visit Brian my friend, with a return on the 3rd January.

There is a lot to cram in about the trip to NYC, and not enough space for words; suffice to say that Brian did us proud in terms of hospitality in Congers and when in the city. Highlights started straight away with a Christmas performance by the Rockettes at the marvellous Art Deco Radio City Music Hall just off the Rockeffella Centre.

New Year’s Eve saw us stay overnight in the historic Gramercy Park Hotel in preparation for the Midnight Run in Central Park.

Central Park

https://www.strava.com/activities/2047758369

Plenty of food was consumed, photographs taken and laughs had. I even managed to squeeze a trail run in the State Parks above Rockland Lake and the Hudson River.

Nyack from Hook Mountain State Park

Nyack from Hook Mountain State Park