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.




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!








A rather busy weekend, BUT no fell running!

The weekend just gone was action packed in that we were out in the great outdoors in the snow. But no fell running… Due to a fall on ice.

Stanage Edge

Friday was a retreat to bed tired after a hard week and aching on my right side. Wednesday night I’d been walking Ted and went over very hard on black ice on a local path. My feet went under me and I landed on my back, luckily I was wearing my Rab thick down coat and it cushioned a lot of the impact and prevented my head cracking the Tarmac; it could have been very bad. Since then my ribs on my right side have prevented me running with moving, especially sleeping, painful indeed.

Saturday saw us gather but not run (me with bashed ribs, Claire with plantar fasciitis) the annual Gerry’s Castleshaw Canter from Delph, renamed in honour of Gerry who sadly passed away recently, a much loved elder statesman of the club. Ted, Claire, and I watched the start, then parked above Delph to watch the runners come in across Ox Hey Top/Broad Lane. We missed out on the running, but what a day for a walk, and for the runners.

Leading the pack was V60 (yes, V60) Mr Chris Davies, with first lady back being Gaynor Keane. Impressive in the terrain, and tricky underfoot snow.

The run was followed by tea and home baked cake at the Torr’s in Delph in their beautiful house, with donations to the club charity. I stuffed my face, not sure about the wife, but Ted is always partial to lemon drizzle cake.

Flickr: https://flic.kr/s/aHsmxSm6S4

And we must not forget Super Ted had a belting time in the snow; running about like a young pup, bearing in mind he’s 12 years old.

Later on that evening was the annual Saddleworth Runners presentation bash at the lovely Saddleworth Golf Club. The event sees club prizes awarded (we picked up second male and Claire second female - boom), nice food, drink, and company both old and new. And of course the Wooden Spoon award for the best failure of the last year, won by my wife for missing my by two hours at the Snake Pass summit when supporting me on the 24 mile Marsden to Edale Trigger fell race, and also forgetting my bag of fresh clothes to change into! Matters were made worse by the fact I’d won the spoon the year before and Claire wanted to see the back of it.

Flickr: https://flic.kr/s/aHsmv4e8fh

With my side still hurting like heck and playing up on the Saturday night as I laughed I was glad for a nice walk with “The Pigs” on Sunday from Hathersage across Stanage Edge. Whilst bitterly cold at times, it was well worth the effort just to lap up the views.

Flickr: https://flic.kr/s/aHsmxVsVkF

Strava: https://www.strava.com/activities/2122430117


It was good to be out with Claire, Ted, Gavin, Steve, and especially Andy who I’d not seen for a while.

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.

Trigger 2019

The Trigger 2019. Rain, and drizzle, and wind, and clag, and wet, and sodden, and 24 miles, and 5k feet of climb, and Gareth Evans.

Looking back yesterday’s race was challenging and I’m pleased to have completed it. The overall weather was pants to be honest, with drizzle most of the way, clag creating limited visibility, and a very sodden ground underfoot making for hard going, with rivers also in flood.

Marsden Cricket Club Start

The hardest element was the wind which may have been 50/60mph in places, and for a lot of the running was completely in your face. The climb out of Red Clough to the Kinder Plateau was one of the hardest climbs ever for me as the wind pushed you back with footwork on the trods being all over the show as you were buffeted by gusts.

The weather overall was strange, for the most part awful, but interspersed with moments of clarity (see photo below) to then soon be lost to clag.

Navigation was important after Lawrence Edge with the Bleaklow Plain being a right old fug. Visibility must have been down to 20 metres in what is a bugger to navigate in clear weather. Compass in hand we aimed for the Pennine Way, which would take us to the Wain Stones, and from there to High Shelf Stones Trig on Shelf Moor. Leap frogging had to be used and we were pleased as Punch to be bang on with the Nav’. It is at this point I’d like to say a big thank you to the poor sods of Glossop Mountain Rescue manning checkpoints and turning points such as Wain Stones, in blistering wind and rain - they must have been frozen. There were some other hardy (foolhardy?) folks also up there as we passed people heading north completing the Spine race; you really did feel for them.

“Hairdryer” wind climbing out of Red Clough

At the Downfall I have seen the waterfall many times blown backwards up the river, but never with such ferocity as yesterday; if you were not wet by then you certainly were at this point as you became drenched by the spray from the waterfall being funneled by wind.

I'd decided to run with Gareth Evans for some company and am very glad I did as we pushed each other along and kept each other company. Meeting us part way round with encouragement was Ryan Townrow armed with Poppy at the Snake Pass crossing.

(I initially saw Ryan hanging out of van on the Holmfirth Road at “Snoopy’s” yelling “Cobbers” adorned with a superb mustache. I’ve now renamed him Magnum in homage to Tom Selleck from childhood days.)

Ryan and Poppy offering support at the Snake Pass

At the finish we were met by Gareth’s family to cheers, which brought a close a tough old day. Would I do it again? Yes, and I can see why people like the race and it sells out. It is a classic fell race. Beautiful scenery with you pitted against the elements; it challenges you to the point of being proud when you have finished.

Trigger finish after 24.7 miles in Edale

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

A weekend in Hawes.

The pervious weekend saw us head to Stone House Hotel just outside Hawes in the Yorkshire Dales to celebrate mother’s birthday meal.

On arriving Saturday we checked into the hotel and caught up with Mother. The house commands a dominating position above Hawes, one that the family owners have turned into a beautiful and unique hotel with simple yet atmospheric gardens. By the time we arrived in the afternoon the weather had turned dark, cold, freezing rain. It was 3 degrees C when we left and not far from the hotel had reached minus 1. Snow was forecast.

We headed out for a walk in windy, wet, freezing conditions. We needed to get out of the hotel otherwise cabin fever would have set in, or Mother would have set us off. And Ted can only stand for sold long being grappled with the accompanying sent of Estee Lauder Youth Drew. So off we set with Ted, who wanted to turn back due to the weather, but mostly due to the sound of shotguns in the valley. It was a pleasant walk but cold as we headed to Hardraw, just down the road passing from field to field. By now water droplets were freezing in the wind. Ted’s coat by this point as had clothing become quite wet. We made it to Hardraw’s Green Dragon Inn, took shelter and had a drink whilst drying out clothing on fire guard for the wood burning range, chatting to locals with a sense of fun in the conversation; as usual Ted was the centre piece.

We headed off, despite a local offering us a lift, across the fields with it now dark, the weather deteriorating, Ted struggling on the frozen grass. He had to be picked up about half a mile away from the hotel shivering hard. On making it back safely we dried out by the log fire in the hotel lounge with mother, to then retreat to the room for a rest before changing for dinner. A challenge popped up. We discovered that Chairman Ted of Found Us fame was not able to make dinner in the restaurant, no dogs. Should I try the “Siberian Hampster” ruse?

We ended up leaving Ted in the suite we had, Ted obliged by shouting the house down. He’s not one to be left out when he’s wearing a Harris Tweed bowtie collar. This was a predicament bearing in mind the two suites above us. A compromise was reached. On eating each course I headed over ice frozen and treacherous pebbles to check on him and feed him lamb across to pheasant. He woofed it down, and eventually settled.

The morning saw a rather “pucker” full English with Mr Woof sadly banished to the suite and checked upon by The Boss. After breakfast we all headed of to Hardraw with a view to seeing the famous Hardraw Force. And we were not disappointed when we got there, with the heavy rain having created a great flow of water over the waterfall. The spray immense and drenching, the noise deafening.

After a right proper dousing aad ignoring the signs saying don't go behind the waterfall we headed to Hawes for the Wensleydale Creamery for cheese buying and shopping.

Shopping involved Claire getting her foot stuck in a boot she tried on with her having to be extricated by myself and the shop owner, the purchase of two sets of ladies’ shoes, one lady’s gillet, a men’s checked winter shirt, and a gift from Mum of a lovely Jacobean replica companion set for the fire, hand made by Belltrees Forge and at the reasonable price of £345 - we went for a sit down brew and cake… It was then off home, sad to say goodbye, but happy in a great weekend.