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This isn’t a running post! I’ve had a health problem for 16 years (since my 2nd pregnancy) that hasn’t been diagnosed, despite numerous scans and visits to gastro consultants and neurologists. I can’t be the only person with these symptoms, so I thought I’d write a blog post in hope of finding either an explanation or a fellow sufferer!

I was 6 or 7 months pregnant when the first attack came on. The main symptom was nausea such that I was unable to eat for 2 days. The fasting seemed to cure it, and I could then eat normally. I had one further attack during the pregnancy, and one when our daughter was 6 months old. Each time, fasting for 2 days was the only way to end the nausea.

Then nothing for 9 years. We were on holiday in Sardinia in 2010 when it struck again. The nausea felt identical so I fasted and it went. This time I had episodic attacks at home afterwards, so I started keeping a food diary. When I’m ill I can generally carry on doing what I’m doing (apart from being a bit sleepier than usual), and the longer into the fast I get, the better I feel.

I paid privately to have allergy testing, but nothing was detected.

In January 2012 I came across York Laboratories who diagnose food intolerances using a simple finger-prick test, where you send a blood sample through the post, which is then analysed for IgG antibodies against a a range of food and drink. The results looked like this, and correlated amazingly well with the food diary I had kept for 2 years.

York Test 2012

My York Laboratories IgG antibody test results. I had a further test in autumn 2014 and can now eat kidney beans, but remain intolerant to most of the other food and drinks listed

Bizarrely, the day I got my results, I’d had chilli con carne (kidney beans, right at the top of the list) for lunch and fell asleep on a course that afternoon. York Test’s advice was to cut out the foods scoring a 3 for 9 months, those scoring 2 for 6 months and those scoring 1 for 3 months. You get 2 x 30 minute phone calls with one of their nutritionists included in the £300 you pay for the test.

This worked with kidney beans, although I’m still careful not to have chilli 2 days in a row. Milk was much more difficult to eliminate as it’s present in a lot of baked goods in the UK, as whey powder, lecithin, skimmed milk powder etc. Obviously butter and cheese were out too, which meant the only pastry products I could buy were pork pies and certain steak pies, where the pastry is made with lard or vegetable margarine rather than butter. I immediately switched to soya milk, which I prefer over the other milk substitutes. Together with sunflower margarine Vitalite, soya milk makes wonderful cakes and pancake batter!

Yeast was a major headache as this is present on the surface of dried fruit and in tropical fruit. The only fruit I eat is a couple of small oranges 3 or 4 times a week. Also I had to cut out sugar as yeasts can only work in the presence of sugar. So I tried a sugar-free diet for 3 months, no wine or beer either (I did drink gin and whisky in small amounts).

I was much better for about 18 months, but when I tried reintroducing milk and yeast (very slowly as per York Test guidelines) I became ill again. So I’ve resigned myself to sticking to the dairy-free and yeast-free diet.

In the last couple of years I’ve had more attacks and they’ve been different in that I’ve had to stop all fluids during the fast. I can’t even swallow water after cleaning my teeth. I find having to go without water for 60 hours quite worrying, but my GP assured me there has been no permanent damage to my kidneys.

It takes a good few weeks to return to normal fluid intake, and I start with glucose or lemonade. Plain water instantly gives me pain in the sinus under my left eye. It’s not until 3 weeks after an attack that I can take plain water.

Low-level eye pain has been present for 10 years now and gets worse during attacks of nausea. It’s a useful little barometer in that it starts to hurt when I have too much water for the stage of recovery relative to an attack. If I’m going for a run, I can normally manage 500ml water on that day.

I’ve had some treatment along the way, but the following drugs haven’t helped: Omeprazole, Buccastem (anti-nausea drug that you put between your gum and teeth) and Amitriptyline. The only thing that I can do is to stick rigidly to the diet.

Being dairy- and yeast-free is easy at home, but going out for lunch can be difficult. Lunch menus often centre on bread and paninis, which are out of the question. A baked potato with tuna mayo or baked beans is fine, as is an all-day breakfast!

Evening meals in restaurants are better. Steak and chips is a favourite, ditto fish and chips. I always avoid mashed potato as it’s likely to contain milk and butter. Having chips with everything must make me look really unhealthy! Salad Nicoise is another option, but you need to make sure it’s not sabotaged with grated cheese or croutons.

Eating out abroad is difficult, and I take the precaution of writing my intolerances in the native language and showing it to the waiter, asking which dishes are suitable for me. My family are very patient with all this!

If any readers can shed light on these issues, or have similar symptoms, please get in touch! I think the doctors I’ve seen think it’s psychological, but the symptoms come on within seconds of having the particular food in my mouth, so I don’t think it can be.


soya favourites

Yeast- and dairy-free staples. Even pitta and naan breads contain yeast, while the wraps have sodium bicarbonate as the raising agent. The ice-cream is amazing – the whole family love it!

As a nurse, I worked with patients with Crohn’s disease. Along with ulcerative colitis, this is an inflammatory condition of the bowel, which can be debilitating for sufferers. Patrick (one of my patients) told me a story. He had been asked “If there’s one thing you could change about your body, what would it be?” Patrick said, “I’d like perfect eyesight,” not to be free of Crohn’s. He said that having Crohn’s had taught him a lot about himself. Although the condition is painful and, at times, embarrassing, Patrick wouldn’t change it.

It’s only now that I have come to understand what Patrick meant. Since acquiring the intolerances, I’ve learnt so much about food, about my own body, and about problem-solving that it really is part of who I am. I’ve learnt a lot, too, from other people with dairy intolerance. For instance, did you know that the only biscuits that are dairy-free are ginger nuts and bourbon creams? But it’s still worth checking these biscuits in case some rogue whey powder or lecithin sneaks in!

Unfortunately incidence of food intolerances are rising, and there is much that medical professionals do not know. The pragmatic way forward is simply to stick to a diet that suits you.



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It’s about time I did another Yorkshire cake post, even though the Leeds Uni cake proved to be unlucky in the end. I got a flash of inspiration at the recent Airenteers Dales Weekend – grey clints from mouldable grey icing, flooded afterwards with green glacé icing for the grass in the grykes – easy!

no icingI did double quantity of my dairy-free chocolate mayonnaise cake. This nicely fills a 24 x 34cm baking tray and gives enough for the cliff layer and to cut off the burnt edges. The stile is made from the olive picks that come with our Graze boxes (and a lot of superglue)!

The cliff-face was textured with the imprint of a bracelet.

braceletI made the limestone blocks in mainly rectangular shapes, but started with a triangle formation, so that there was some randomness. I put a thin layer of butter icing to hold them in place, then piped the green into the gaps afterwards. You could put the rocks directly onto the green icing, but you would need to have made them all first, otherwise the icing would dry.


Dave with mapThe wall was held together with butter icing, and finished with an authentic layer of coping stones. I butchered some old maps to cover up the edges and found a Playmobil man that looked a bit like Dave and even made him a tiny map!

All together it took about 4 hours, and I have to say, I didn’t have the energy to add candles after all that. Happy Birthday Dave … I could have numbered one of the controls 54, but it was getting late!


finished cake from front

finished cake from above


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We last ran this race in 2014 and found it quite tough, so this year we acted our age and entered the Short class, as a pair. This was 14.5km straight line distance, with a worrying 1350 metres of climb – the height of Ben Nevis! The forecast was double raindrops all day and Buttermere was looking inviting …

general view

But on the upside, the Start was in a huge barn!


Dave at Start

Off we trotted at 9:01, a few hundred metres up to map-issue, manned by my brother who got some good pics!

up to map issue

leaving map issue

The first leg was up the side of Robinson, via any one of three compulsory crossing-points on the ridge, and down to the checkpoint on a stream bend in Little Dale, 45 mins. Then it was over Hindscarth, flanking Dale Head to the SW, the checkpoint a tarn on High Scawdell, a hill (or rather, a flank of Dale Head) that I’d not been on before. It was unpleasantly wet and windy on the descent to Honister, but not too cold fortunately!


No 3 (the southern tip of the trace) involved the traverse of a boulder field below Raven Crag – twice, as the optimum route to No 4 involved a dog-leg. The traverse below Grey Knotts seemed to take ages, but it was an easy checkpoint at the junction of the path and an abandoned tram line (2 hrs 44 mins total).

altitude graphOur strategy to No 5 (south end of Blackbeck Tarn) was to contour then climb, as the GPS trace above doesn’t show the crags that were on our race map. We took a bit of a duff –but safe – route choice to No 6 via the tourist path over Haystacks, which was quite rocky, so we lost a bit of time here, as some rivals got to Scarth Gap before us. Then it was a quick descent back to Gatesgarth Farm, finishing in 4 hrs and 8 mins. Actual distance was 19.4 km (compared with 14.5 straight line) and 1347m climb (exactly as advertised). Altitude profile above, showing the dip at 2 hrs when we crossed the road at the top of Honister Pass.

Podium Catering had set up in the barn for the post-race meal of chilli n taco – most welcome!! John got another photo of us …


We’d had a good day out on our Short course, but we heard when we downloaded that runners on Long and Medium had been called in from a manned half-way checkpoint due to the bad weather. Some speedy folks managed to finish before the decision had been taken, Results here.

On the way home, my brother texted that we were 3rd in the pairs class and had won a voucher for Pete Bland Sports : ) A big thanks to the race organisers, especially all those taking numbers at the checkpoints in all that rain. We’ll be back next year – Short is just right!

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This was my first trip away with Belper Harriers. The race was harder than expected, but we had a cracking weekend!

Rachel organised this as a girls trip, and booked Alnwick Youth Hostel for about 20 of us – the early risers for the Marathon & Ultra races in one dorm and those for the Half and 10k in another couple of dorms.


With Wendy, after Registration at Bamburgh Castle

It’s an A–B race, with everyone finishing at Bamburgh Castle early–mid afternoon. So the start times are staggered, the Ultra starting at 8:20, the Marathon at 9:30 – you get the idea. We had to drive to register at Bamburgh and get bussed back to the Start. Registration was in the old stables & we collected our number, dibber and whatever variety of Cliff Bar that took our fancy.


Good thing we were allowed an extra layer for the bus as it was pelting it down during the pre-briefing … and when we got to the Start, one of the feather banners snapped in the wind!


Briefing before the bus to the Start at Alnwick Castle. Fortunately this was the worse weather of the day!

I wished Wendy good luck and off we went. The first 6 miles or so were thru fields, tracks and minor roads down to the coast at Alnmouth – quite fiddly but well signed. From Lovers’ Lane there’s a lovely terrace of pastel coloured ‘Balamory’ houses, then you hit the coast. It’s a good feeling, as it’s here that you embark on the race proper.

Several sections were along the beach and I ran in the water every now and again to nip any blisters in the bud. The exits from each beach sections were marked with a feather banner – which  always seemed to be getting smaller rather than bigger  :O

The 2nd checkpoint (12.9 miles) was a mile so south of Craster and I got there in 1:59. Jelly Babies, bananas and crisps were the standard fayre – but you had to get the crisps opened for you otherwise it would be salty confetti, it was so windy!

Next highlight was spotting the Harriers bobble hats at the Half Marathon Start. They were just taking a group photo when I ran through! Soon they overtook me tho, on fresh legs.


Harriers Hat Half-marathon Start! Photo: Lizzy Nay

The romantically ruined Dunstanburgh Castle was next, then another long beach to Checkpoint 3 at 19 miles. The next miles to CP 4 at 25 miles were the worse and I was contemplating opting for the Marathon instead of the 35 mile Ultra, but when I got to the checkpoint, the thought that I only had 11 more miles to do gave me a second wind!

Seahouses was pretty. The last beach was long, and – worse – doing the Ultra you had to loop past Bamburg Castle and run along it twice. But at least I felt on the home straight by now & got a fantastic cheers from Rachel, Claire & other Harriers at the Finish.


The Finish at Bamburgh Castle. Photo: Lizzy Nay

The loop continued along the coast across a golf course with views of Lindisfarne Castle (apt: oldies will remember the band’s 1978 single, Run for Home), then turned inland on minor roads and finally repeating the last mile of beach. The thought of a sub-7 hour time kept me pushing, but in the end it was 7:02. I was pretty delighted with this, especially after finding the 2nd Female Vet 50 had done 7:04!


Happy to have stopped running! Photo (and duvet jacket): Claire Sheldon

Claire met me at the Finish with cake ‘n’ crisps and lent me her duvet jacket. I watched a few finishers climb up to the castle, then drove back to the YH for a shower ‘n’ chill before a great meal at Lilburns’ in Alnwick where the anti-inflammatory Pinot Grigio flowed!

Here’s a link to the EnduranceLife Coastal Trail Series events. My Women’s over 50 prize was a £10 voucher for entry into another race. I see this one scored 2/5 for difficulty and all the others are harder … so maybe not, but I’m glad I did it!

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Come along to No 28 on January 2nd and try Urban orienteering! For those of you who’d like to know a little bit more about the Belper map, I’ve written this post. Read it, and I guarantee it’ll save you 5 or 10 minutes on Jan 2nd if you’re new to orienteering ; )


Poster for the Belper Urban race – the course is just a made-up example to give an idea of how orienteering works in a town. The green is private land, which you cannot cross, so the distances on Urban courses are always 20-30% longer than advertised!

Orienteering came to the UK from Sweden in the 1960s, so the first thing to say about ‘O’ maps is that the symbols are international. Top-end orienteers compete world wide, and even recreational orienteers will often plan a holiday around a multi-day event in an exotic location. I’ve orienteered in the four Scandinavian countries, France, Hungary, Switzerland, Lithuania, the USA, Australia and New Zealand!

In O maps, use of colour is counter-intuitive, as we map runability, not what’s actually on the ground.  This helps orienteers make route-choice decisions: is it quicker to run though forest with brambles, or go three sides of a square, but along a path? So there’s a continuum from white through to dark green, with white being runable forest, light green denser forest (we call it ‘forest walk’) to dark green ‘forest fight’ – rhododendrons, gorse, holly or felled trees where you have to crawl under or climb over the trunks. Don’t go there if at all possible!

Open land (grass) is mapped as yellow and again there’s a continuum of this to white, so that a few scattered trees on grass is mapped as yellow with regular white spots, in something we call ROST (rough open with scattered trees). Are you enjoying the lingo so far?!


St Peter’s Church Yard, showing the rough open scattered trees (ROST) symbol. The white round the edge is continuous trees.

You can see that there’s quite a lot here that’s open to interpretation, and although I’ve been orienteering for 27 years, I would find mapping a forest just too daunting.

In 2001 our club Derwent Valley Orienteers (and all 120 O clubs in the UK) were unable to hold competitions on many of our countryside areas due to sanctions to control the foot and mouth outbreak. So orienteers began mapping towns and cities to hold events there.

Urban orienteering offers the same challenges of planning and executing a route while running at speed that normal orienteering poses. Orienteering has been compared to playing chess while sprinting, and mistakes are made because oxygen debt builds up when you are running too fast and misinterpret the map.

This year I’ve done Urban races in Edinburgh, Whitby, Grimsby, Manchester, Liverpool and Todmorden. I’m quite evangelistic about the excitement of Urban, and got it in The Guardian Weekend Magazine’s Body: How I Work It column in September. The journalist did a great job, as did the photographer, who was jetting off to LA to shoot will.i.am two days after my photoshoot! Does anyone recognise where the photo was taken?

DVO has mapped Chesterfield, Matlock, Wirksworth, Ripley and Ashbourne for Urban orienteering. Our best non-urban areas are Eyam Moor, Birchen Edge, Stanton Moor, Chinley Churn (photos from our September event), Crich Chase and Shining Cliff Woods (we have an event there 29th January 2017). We have a lot more areas mapped, but these latter are of such a technical standard they would pull orienteers from all over the country. Lower down the scale we have a number of parks and grounds of National Trust properties, which are great for beginners.


This poster shows areas where DVO has held events in 2016. I’m working on one for 2017 now!

I’ve lived in Belper for 20 years and offered to map it for the club’s annual New Year Urban event (2nd January 2017). I find Urban racing much easier than forest running as buildings are either there, or not there. There’s nothing half-way about a building, whereas with contours we have a half-contour symbol called a form line, which looks like a contour, but is dashed. Contours are mapped at 5 metre intervals, and the form line is used for prominent features not big enough to merit a contour.

So Urban mapping is largely a case of tracing streets and buildings from a base map, using a CAD package called, yes, you’ve guessed it, O-CAD. The only skills needed are persistence and attention to detail, as even the curb edges are mapped, as well as things like islands at road crossings.

I started the map in January 2016 and had a couple of O-CAD lessons from Mike, DVO’s mapping supremo. The scale of an Urban orienteering map is 1:5000. Compare this to the OS Explorer maps at 1:25000 and you can see that it’s a lot more detailed. A square km on Explorer is 4cm x 4cm, but on an Urban O map it’s 20cm x 20cm. Every building is shown remarkably clearly. Grass verges are mapped, as are individual trees in town streets.

The first job was to trace the buildings, which took a couple of weeks. The next step required more thought. Remember I said that conventional orienteering map symbols represent runability? The Urban symbol set represents permissability. Private land (gardens etc.) are shown as olive green and public tarmac’d areas as pale brown. Grass is yellow, runable forest is white, as in forest O.


The Clusters, Christ Church, Belper Library, Green Lane and Mill Street

You can see Belper Library at the bottom left, above. Each tree at the front is shown, the grass behind is shown as yellow, with the trees as white. The single tree on the lawn is shown as a small green dot (trunk circumference less than 30cm). Of course it’s a bigger green dot for larger trees, like the oak just showing on the southern tip of The Triangle. You can see Long Row playground marked with the pink out-of-bounds symbol, rather than olive green. This is because it’s useful to show for navigation purposes, even tho you can’t cross it.

Walls and fences have two symbols depending on whether they are crossable or uncrossable. Not physically crossable, note, but whether or not you are allowed to cross them! Yes, it’s confusing and, yes, people do get disqualified (58 people were disqualified for crossing out-of-bounds wild-flower meadows at the British Sprint Championships at the Olympic Park this year; not me tho, I got 3rd place in my age group!). Anyway these are the rules and the sport must be fair.

So once all the buildings are traced onto the map, the next step is the boundaries of the private land, shown in olive. Technically this should be an uncrossable wall or fence, but because you’re not allowed to cross olive, adding a bold black line around it would be overkill (the map looks less cluttered if only essential or helpful symbols are used). So we use the thin black line that denotes a ‘step or edge of paved area’. The uncrossable wall symbol is used round the railway in the Clusters extract above, and uncrossable fence is used at the edge of the football pitch.

Next come the outlines of the roads and pavements, and this is done with Google Street View open on another laptop. It’s a very time consuming job to get the curves nice and smooth! Then there’s adding the colour, which can be done quickly if it’s simply a case of filling in a closed area, but often it isn’t that simple.

All told, I must have spent about 300 hours on the map, spread over 6 months. During the last 2 months I was checking the map on the ground, scrawling amendments onto a tracing paper overlay and taking photos, and then amending it on the computer. When I handed the file back to Mike in June, I felt like I’d got my life back, and I’m very grateful for all the hours he’s put in this autumn checking things.

Not all his changes are things I’ve missed, however! New features do appear, cases in point being the new B&M/Aldi store and the trim trail up on the Parks.

Once working version of the map is available, I started planning the seven courses that we’ll offer on January 2nd. The longest course, Men’s Open (for men age 21-34) will be 7.5 km with roughly 25 checkpoints, and the shortest will be for Juniors under 12, maybe 2 km, with about 15 checkpoints. We use a program called PurplePen for this, and I’ll discuss the courses in detail with the race controller, who will suggest improvements and advise on safety. For instance, the two longest courses will likely go into the River Gardens, so to avoid people running across the A6, I’ll have a timed-out crossing at some pedestrian lights, with checkpoints either side. Electronic timing means that the time taken to cross can easily be deducted.

The Belper event is on January 2nd from No 28 The Market Place, and everyone will start at 11am (this ‘mass start’ is quite unusual in orienteering, but we always use it at our New Year events because it means you have longer to put out all the checkpoints in the morning, and people are generally back by 12 or 1pm).

You can see what events we have coming up on our Facebook page (go on, have a look & give us a Like!), or on the Fixtures tab of the DVO website. British Orienteering have a great Guide for Newcomers and I love the fact that our sport needs its own dictionary! Do you know what a re-entrant is?!

Entry to the Belper Urban costs just £3.50 for Courses 6 and 7, which have been planned for Juniors, families and Adult Beginners.

The longer courses cost £8 to enter on the day (£7 if you enter online before Dec 28th, see link below), still £3.50 for Juniors/Students. The event is part of the UK Urban League, in which orienteers compete against others in their age group. We have an online entry system as there’ll be more competitors from further afield.


The Market Place area, from where the event will start. In the top right, the Nag’s Head kindly allowed me to map their beer garden! And I’ve got permission from Belper Town Council to put a checkpoint or two in the Memorial Gardens (bottom left). I’ve had to ask Mike to add the Prominent tree symbol for the Christmas tree!

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This is a 20 mile linear race along most of the gritstone edges of the Peak District, organised by Edale Mountain Rescue Team. The route starts at Fairholmes (between Derwent and Ladybower Reservoirs) and finishes at the Robin Hood pub just east of Baslow.

Busses are arranged to get you back to your car at Fairholmes, but we’d had to travel in two cars as I needed to go to Manchester straight after the race, so I dropped my car at the Robin Hood and jumped in with Dave and Ned to go up the the start – all the time thinking “I’ve got to run all this to get back!”

After a midgey start, I realised my water bottle was leaking badly, so drank all I had before any more was lost! The 1000ft climb up to Derwent Edge wasn’t (quite) as bad as I expected, and I was up at Checkpoint 1 at 35 mins. This was the only significant climb in the race and it was great to run down along the slabs past all the tors. We then swung east towards the second checkpoint at Moscar Lodge, before crossing over onto Stanage.


Even this long section whizzed by (I’m quite seasoned to maintaining flat speed after my 2 Glasgow-Edinburgh canal races!) and I got to the Fiddler’s Elbow Checkpoint at exactly 2 hours into the race, stopping briefly to guzzle some jelly babies and water.

The track just below Burbage was another gentle descent, but I did start to tire going through Longshaw and along Froggatt and Curbar. At this point, the end was near, and it was nice to get a cheer from clubmates Paul and Roger near Wellington’s Monument. A final uphill push up to the bottom of Birchen, and then down through the bracken to the Robin Hood, where we were issued with our free drink voucher, and, more to the point, finished running!


Post-race rehydration!

I met Dave and Ned and got my pint, happy with my time of 3 hours 38 – especially as this took the pressure off my airport trip later in the day. There was a great atmosphere at the end, as well as during the race, as it was nice to say ‘hi’ to all the walkers who had started before us. Dave was pretty impressed that some do a climb on all of the edges (adding distance and climb) and still finish before he did!

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A successful event on Birchen Edge was almost cancelled 24 hours earlier due to the Assembly field being inaccessible as a result of muddy conditions, so I thought I’d put down some thoughts on how this can be avoided:

  • Add “Loss of Parking field due to weather/landowner” to the Risk Assessment as this will prompt to consider alternatives.
  • Hold a site meeting with Parking Team Leader 2 or 3 weeks before the event, to allow alternatives to be investigated.

Having visited the area 5 weeks before the event I was confident about the parking arrangements. However, on reflection, this visit was on foot as it saves meeting the farmer to unlock the gate. Next time, go in the car!

My first trip in the immediate lead-up was 2 days before the event, with 6 straw bales for the Start stile. I was unable to get into Assembly as the uphill sloping field was quite wet. The farmer managed it no problem, but they always do. I raised concerns with Stuart about the parking that evening, as he was heading up the late parking shift & is also Club Chair.

Six of us were meeting at 10am on the Saturday to put up the Marquee, place the rubber track matting and set up the stile for the road crossing. Stuart joined us, and, fortunately for me, was able to collect a car load of equipment – including the large ladder stile.

We got the marquee up and placed three more straw bales (to speed passage on existing stiles), then reassessed the parking. The only alternative was to park at either side of the track, and the farmer had suggested we do this on two occasions. Still, with 417 pre-entries, it had to be carefully counted out.

Stuart and Lester investigated pay and display parking next to the Robin Hood pub and reported capacity at 30. This could be used for the 80 club members, most of whom were helping, so would arrive early, before the public.

So, now looking at capacity to park cars of 340 competitors from other clubs, say 300 with >10% drop out rate. Somebody came up with the figure of 130 cars and this turned out to be the case, as takings were £272 = 136 cars.

Looking at all the firm places to pull off the track, and a field to the east, we concluded it was just about possible. In the end we had a vote, and went ahead with the event, but were all a bit anxious.

I should have held a site meeting with the Parking Team 2 weeks before the event, as certain changes such as laying gravel or creating an exit by dismantling a ruined wall could have given us another field. Obviously 18 hours before the event is too late for this. On the day, however, two rows of cars were parked in this field, exiting by the entrance (photo).

parking 2017

Sawdust soaks up the mud and acts as an abrasive so tyres can get more traction. We hope to be able to use this field for parking at future event – the entrance is at the top and an exit could be created at the bottom, with the farmer’s permission

We agreed the wording for:

  • a web announcement to car share where possible, and
  • an email to be cascaded to the Helpers to use the pay and display.

These were posted/mailed at about 5pm by Mike and myself.

On event day, I arrived at 7:30 to be ready for Traders and toilets at 8am. Mike, Liz and Dave were 10 minutes behind me. Dave put out the road signs, a time consuming job that I try and delegate! Mike and Liz set up the marquee for Download and Registration.



Stuart and Lester came prepared with a scythe to harvest bracken for putting in the mud and some big cubes of compressed sawdust. Both of these really helped! One competitor commented – rightly – that the DVO Parking Team were ‘absolutely 5 star!’

The track mats are good, but there are only 10 of them and they need to be laid in parallel. They are difficult to handle, so take a helper with you to load them.

track matting

Track mats in action

Ranald offered to act as Safety Officer, and I gratefully accepted! He had quite a bit to deal with – a head injury and any issues arising from parking, as well as liaising with the Start.

The person who was injured was also on the Jury, so I had to call the Reserve Juror and ask him not to go home until stood down. And sure enough, about an hour later, there was a complaint from an M18 who, after discussion with myself and the Controller, decided to make a written protest. In this circumstance, the Jury has to be called, so I had to go and sit in my car to make the calls, as the wind was such that I couldn’t hear outside!

The Prize Giving was scheduled for 2pm. Fortunately the Jury issue was so clear-cut that it didn’t impact the results.

prize giving

The winner on M10 collects his trophy

Packing up is a bit of a rush in November as it’s dark by 5pm, so you need to dismantle everything as soon as possible. And worse, the marquee was starting to blow free of the rocks we’d used to anchor it on the Saturday, so this was our priority. Then pushing and pulling the caterer’s van out of the mud, with the aid of the sawdust under his tyres!

We were off site by about 5pm, having left a car load of equipment including the stile to retrieve the following day. I couldn’t lift more than 3 track mats though, so another trip was scheduled with Stuart later in the week. We took the mats to Matlock car wash where they had a thorough pressure hosing – and so did my car!

It would have been more sensible to hire a van for the equipment and straw, but the requirement for 6 extra bales only came up about a week before the event – by which point, I’d written a timeline detailing when I would deliver all the equipment and it sort of worked so I stuck with it. I’ve included the Timeline and my safety folder contents page in a link as other organisers may find these helpful. The DVO Notes for Event Coordinators are very good and walk you through what to do in the months and weeks before the event.

We had 55 club members helping at the event, headed up by 7 Team Leaders. They know the detail of what they are doing because they do it at every DVO event and without them, the events couldn’t happen.

The bad weather (hurricane Clodagh) meant that about 70 of the pre-entered competitors stayed at home. This is about 15% of the 417 entries, so a higher no-show rate than usual. The weather was a little better than expected. It was windy and showery, but mild, so we didn’t enforce cagoules.

For the record, hay is a bit more expensive than straw at £3.50 a bale. And straw is a bit more robust for use in stiles, so quite a bargain at £2.50 a bale. If you do use hay, be careful farm animals can’t get at it – not an issue with straw!



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I’ve always liked the psychedelic colours of urban orienteering maps, so I decided to put one on my 50th cake. I chose Leeds Uni as the JK Sprint will be taking place there on Good Friday 2016 and our daughter will be starting there that autumn. When I put ‘urban orienteering cake’ into Google images, nothing relevant came up, so I figured it was worth sharing! Ultra blog turned bake-off … ssshh, don’t tell the Exercise Police!

Preparation: a trip to HobbyCraft for ISOM icing colours and an icing pen for the fine detail

Preparation: a trip to HobbyCraft for ISSOM icing colours and an icing pen for the fine detail

I enlarged an extract of the map to 200% to size to a suitable cake tin. With hindsight 300% would be better as the tiny detail takes ages to make in icing! I doubled the quantity of my dairy-free chocolate mayonnaise cake and turned it upside-down so the icing was on the base and therefore nice and even.

Road lattice and part of Charles Morris (Charlie Mo) Hall. I repeat: the glacé icing layer underneath the ready-roll was a mistake!

Road lattice and part of Charles Morris (Charlie Mo) Hall. I repeat: the glacé icing layer underneath the ready-roll was a mistake!

Help then arrived in the form of Al as the hours needed for this project were considerable! She scalpelled the road network out of the photocopy so we had a template to cut the icing from. But when we tried to manoeuvre this large lattice of icing onto the cake, disaster struck as we’d made the mistake of putting a thin, wet layer of glacé icing on first. DO NOT DO THIS. We started again, cutting the lattice into three parts and putting on the cake dry so we could move it to fit the inner bits of the ‘blocks’.

Stress over, filling in the blocks was much more straightforward … fun, even! Circular detail can be cut out with the end of a drinking-straw, e.g. trees on yellow ‘open land’. We decided to counter-sink everything as I wanted a flat finish, like a map, so we cut out the green tree circles, cut holes in the yellow grass and sunk the trees into them.

How we made the trees with white in the middle

How we made the trees with white in the middle

Starting to look goood ..

Starting to look goood

We were delighted with the finished result. The icing alone took 11 hours between 4 of us, so I’d definitely simplify this if I ever tackle it again. Also, I should have got a closer match on the orange ‘open land’ instead of the yellow. I used a set of alphabet cutters for the lettering, again counter-sunk into the base layer. The cake was a definite talking point amongst us Leeds graduates but (I’m ashamed to say) we had to use Google Earth to identify which bit of the campus it was!!

The black lines for steps and man-made objects finished it off nicely, thanks to Sarah for that!

The black lines for steps and man-made objects finished it off nicely, thanks to Sarah for that!

Google Earth of the part of the map shown on the cake - the campus is now embargoed for JK competitors as prior knowledge would compromise fairness

Google Earth of the part of the map shown on the cake – the campus is now embargoed for JK competitors as prior knowledge would compromise fairness

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This race has been going for 44 years and was originally set up as an army training exercise and then taken over in the 1990s by the Gorphwysfa Club. It’s 20 miles, from the north coast to the top of Snowdon, but taking in other 1000m peaks on the Carneddau and the Glyders en route. There are a few shorter variants – I’m talking about the A class here.

Welsh altitude

I’ve never done a race that finishes on the top of a mountain (a novel altitude profile!), so this had to be ‘budgeted’ for by taking an extra layer and a £10 note for the café. Four of us from DVO did the race: Paul, Dave (the fast ones) and Roger and myself who ran together. After an extremely windy night in the tent we had a quick breakfast and got to Llanberis for Registration and the bus to the Start at 8am.

I was shivering in the Start field, so it was good to get running up the lovely forested valley leading up to the first checkpoint on the shoulder of Carnedd Uchaf. Very soon it was cags-on again as we climbed up through the bilberries to the ridge. It was eye-wateringly cold up there, so gloves and buff were soon added! At least visibility was good. We’d not managed a reccying trip and I don’t think I’d have completed in the 8-hour cut-off with any navigational shilly-shallying.

Race route: sea to summit (almost, almost)

Race route: sea to summit (almost, almost)

The next two checkpoints were Carnedd Llewelyn and Carnedd Dafydd, with great views out to Anglesey and worry-inducing views over to the Glyders. Soon we dropped out of the wind and began a nice grassy descent to the Ogwen Valley, where a checkpoint awaited with drink and food.

We got there 30 mins inside the cut-off time of 1pm, having done over half the mileage of the race but less than half the climb. Still reassuring though! There was a mile road-run west up the A5 to the car park by Llyn Ogwen where we turned off up the Glyders. The route was up the Gribin ridge, one across from the majestic Tryfan. It was a rocky scramble in places, so that took your mind off how tired you were! The third 1000 metre peak, Glyder Fawr, had some Tolkeinesque rock formations which looked quite atmospheric in the mist.

Then there was a nice descent to the welcome sight of Pen-Y-Pass where Andy was waiting with our bags – the crisps and Red Bull went down very well! We left at 2:50pm so had 2 hours 10 to get to the top of Snowdon via the Pyg track and Carnedd Ugain before the 5 o’clock cut-off time.

Well, the world and his wife seemed to be climbing Snowdon, and none of them adequately dressed! I deflected a couple of 20-somethings in jeans from going over Crib Goch and Roger donated his gloves to a young lady sat by the path, disconsolately staring at her hands. It was good to see Paul then Dave coming down and get some words of encouragement. Where the path zig-zags up the corrie wall I went ahead as I was getting cold, but from there it was incredibly quick to turn right on the ridge to get Ugain and then backtrack to the col and follow the railway and throngs of tourists to Snowdon proper.

Much relieved, I put on my spare fleece and waterproof trousers over my shorts, visited the summit cairn and then Roger arrived 15 mins inside the cut-off! The cafe was closed – it had been too windy for the train to run, so I guess the staff couldn’t do their commute. So no pie, chips and coffee, but it was nice to walk down and appreciate the scenery at leisure. We forked onto the longer Miners’ Track to drop out of the wind and avoid down-scrambling the bits on the Pyg Track that we’d up-scrambled – always easier! And in a semi-euphoric state got to Pen-Y-Pass and the comfort of Andy’s car at 6:30pm. A great day out with the perfect amount of challenge!

Thanks to the huge team of helpers who braved that wind for hours, to Andy for original inspiration and graciously doing road support due to injury, and the others for banter – a great weekend!

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vitamin wordle

Vitamins: be more curious

These ramblings first appeared in Newstrack, the magazine of Derwent Valley Orienteers. I have expanded them here as vitamins seem to fall into that middle bit of the Venn diagram of my running, my obsession with polar exploration and work as a gastro nurse. But be warned – you may learn more about polar history than nutrition if you read on …

Mike Stroud, expedition doctor and 1992/3 Antarctic crossing partner to Sir Ranulph Fiennes, stated that runners are unlikely to be lacking in vitamins & minerals because their hearty intake of macronutrients should include the necessary micronutrients. However these nutritional basics are often overlooked and runners need optimum nutrition for recovery from injury and the rigours of training (and orienteers for concentration).

It was the Polish biochemist Caisimir Funk (1884-1967) who, in 1911, coined the term ‘vitamine’ or ‘vital amine’ (an amine is an organic compound containing a nitrogen atom) when he proposed that diseases such as beriberi, rickets, sprue (an early term for coeliac disease), scurvy and pellagra were caused by nutritional deficiencies instead of germs – the theory developed by Louis Pasteur in the 1870s. The final e was axed by British food scientist Jack Drummond in 1920 when it was suspected that vitamin A, for one, did not contain an amine.

Vitamin A, safe and riskier sources

Vitamin B, complex and complicated

Vitamin C, a survey of scurvy

Vitamin D, calcium homeostasis hormone

Vitamins E & K, clotting counterweights

The Vitamin Tube Map © Sally Chaffey 2015

The Vitamin Tube Map
© Sally Chaffey 2015


Looking back on this survey of the vitamins, it seems they really were a magical discovery a century ago, when deficiency diseases were first recognised as such. Our parents told us to eat our greens; we are more relaxed, perhaps because florid cases of rickets, scurvy and beriberi are now rare.

We owe our understanding of the micronutrients to those doctors and public health officials who postulated the existence of the vitamins by observing human deficit and used trial and error to find a dietary cure. Then the biochemists and chemists who spent years isolating the active substances and attempting to synthesise these substances de novo. Finally the sailors, pioneers, prisoners, volunteers and brave self-experimenters on five continents who found out the hard way.

The supplement industry is massive and continues to grow, but the conclusion I have drawn is that a fresh and varied diet is safer and better for you. It seems astounding that deficiency diseases have only come to be understood in the last hundred years. What paradigm shift will be next?

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