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!



Urban Orienteering cake

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

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!

Vitamins: be more curious

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?

I’d heard good things about the Round Rotherham from the post-race chat on other ultras so decided to give it a try. So if the Mountain Trial was Romanticism, I thought, now for some dirty realism … This was only partially true however!

The race was first run in 1983 and some folks certainly looked they’d done every one since. It’s full title is Rowbotham’s Round Rotherham, named after Rotherham Harriers’ secretary and president Ralph Rowbotham who devised the route and nurtured the event.

There are about 150 walkers who start at 6am and the same number of runners, starting at 7, and I’d been told that navigation was easy as there are plenty of people to follow. This was definitely the case and, when it wasn’t, white-on-black waymarkers are in place at over half of the decision points.

Anyway, to start at the beginning, I’d decided not to rekkie the route, but had printed out colour maps and ‘Wainwright strips’ from the excellent Henry Marston website. I also had route instructions for direst emergency but these didn’t come out of my pack! I eyeballed the splits between the 7 checkpoints and came up with a 11 hr 15 min schedule.

Drove up to Rotherham on the Friday night, tricky finding the event centre at Dearne Valley College but made it after a couple of U-turns! Bagged some floor space and asked them to turn the heating down … cramp during a race may be regarded as misfortune, cramp before a race looks like carelessness (with apologies to Oscar Wilde!).Lights came on at 5:30am to wake the walkers so I read for a bit, then had my breakfast of pre-toasted potato farls & black coffee (dairy and yeast-free regime). It was nice not to be stressed and have time to chat to people. You could leave a drop bag to be taken to Checkpoint 4 at 30 miles, so I put my pasty and a can of Red Bull in there and gave my phone an extra charge to ensure my ViewRanger trace didn’t die. I checked my schedule and was delighted to find I’d made a lucky maths error and it added up to 10 hrs 15!

The organisers are very relaxed about kit and the only compulsory item is a mobile phone. With the frequency of checkpoints, you could very easily do this race with a bum bag. I rarely needed water between checkpoints. This would be a good ultra for beginners as not too hilly with 884m climb and nothing memorably bad; I can’t even remember where the spikes below were!

Altitude graph
Section 1 to Grange Park
7am soon came round and we started from just outside the sports hall. It was mild and still dark. I never like to think too much during the first 2 hrs of an ultra – it’s best just not to! Get those miles under the belt and start analysing later. Tried to keep up with the 2nd bunch of runners, a black + fluorescent kit theme going on, looked like Liquorice Allsorts bobbing ahead of me in the dark!Picked up the Trans Pennine Trail and the Barnsley Boundary Walk before striking off across the fields at Elsecar. The villages of Wentworth and Thorpe Hesley passed by and I used my one sheet of enlarged map as I’d read on the race’s Facebook site that the exit from Thorpe Hesley to Keppel’s column was tricky. The section was 11 miles and was happy to get to Checkpoint 1 at Grange Park bang on my 1 hr 45 schedule. Just had some Hula Hoops and Jelly Babies and got a quick water refill then off …

Section 2 to Treeton
The next section was by far the least scenic, running parallel with the M1 through various industrial estates. I quite enjoyed it though – reminded me of cutting my running teeth in Leeds. Also my feet were overheating so I found some good puddles to run through & hey presto, no blisters! Had budgetted 75 mins for this (6.3 miles) and came in just under, getting to the Treeton Checkpoint at 10am. It’s at this point you need to start making sure you’re eating enough, taking Ibuprofen etc. so I had a wrap and a boiled egg. But too depressing yet to think of the miles left to do!
RRR route, Start and Finish at Wath upon Dearne near top of map

RRR route, Start and Finish at Wath upon Dearne near top of map

Section 3 to Harthill
Possibly the trickiest bit of navigation was a dogleg up the A57 to re-descend to the railway line you were following originally but on the other side. Fortunately one of the posse I was with had the route on his phone, which saved me getting out my Wainwright srips.  Next was the Rother Valley Country Park, with its lakes and families doing their Saturday morning stuff – opened in 1983 on former quarry land. Then the dreaded ploughed fields (what felt like 20 miles of them!). They could have been worse, but each of my SpeedCrosses weighed in at 450g afterwards! Harthill was very pretty and we got another fantastic welcome at the checkpoint.

Section 4 to Woodsetts

With Harthill being at 25 miles (4.5hrs) it was now OK to consider what was left. I was still feeling good, the sun was shining & my pasty was calling me from Checkpoint 4. I got there at 12:40, was handed my drop bag and wolfed it down, chased with coffee & RedBull. I didn’t dare sit down in case I cramped, which I tend to do these days the minute I point my toes. The bags were going to the Finish so it was good to dump any old map sheets, as well as my torch, which I knew I wouldn’t now need (only 20 miles to go at 12:45!).

Sections 5 to Firbeck & 6 to Maltby

More nice rural sections but alarmingly my fingers started going numb 40 mins after the pie so I had a 9Bar and a gel and feeling came back. Then, at the lovely Roche Abbey I started feeling sick and had to walk even though it was flat. I had a couple of Hula Hoops but wasn’t able to chew or swallow them very well, so I decided my digestive impulses had packed in and not to worry about it. Just had a bare minimum of food from then on and, sure enough, got a 2nd wind.

Sections 7 to Old Denaby & 8 to Finish

Really these just went by in a blurr, hoping to get in under 10 hours! The last 2 miles of navigation got very tricky as we crossed a railway, an industrial estate & the River Don, and I was grateful to the runner from Leeds who repeatedly gave me directions. We both made it to the Finish in 9hrs 50 mins to a great cheer & welcome sit-down.This has to be the best-value race I’ve ever entered, my £19 got m floor-space in the sports hall to sleep the night before, hot meal (x2) plus snacks and drinks en route, T-shirt & cloth badge. I got back home at 7pm (no navigational mis-haps this time!) having thoroughly enjoyed my Rotherham adventure. A big thank you to all the helpers (it’s a slick machine you’ve got going there!) and great company on the way round.

Enjoying post-race soup, coffee & pasta :)

Enjoying post-race soup, coffee & pasta 🙂

The Lake District Mountain Trial was first run in 1952 on a fixed course from the Old Dungeon Ghyll in Langdale but in 1956 a new organising committee took over and the event became a point to point race in which competitors were given grid references for the next checkpoint as they progressed round the course. Actually the first orienteering race in the UK 10 years before O as we know it came over from Sweden!

2014 was the race’s 60th anniversary (years missed due to foot & mouth and wet weather). Dave and I have done it a few times over the last 15 years, but this is my first time while blogging! I entered the Medium course at 13.2 miles and 5200ft of climb but, with route choice via runnable ridges instead of contouring, it notched up 20.5 miles and 7000ft on the GPS!!
ViewRanger trace of the route - massive deviation from straight-line route on 1-2

ViewRanger trace of the route – massive deviation from straight-line route on 1-2

 We started at 1 min intervals from the Assembly field at Glenridding Cricket Club. We joked that, as early starters, we were bracken fodder but the 1st leg was to a col NE of St Sunday Crag, only one sensible route via path and I got there in 33 mins. Actually no bracken anywhere on course!

Next leg to a sheepfold half way down Helvellyn on the Thirlmere side, 5km as-the-crow-flies but 10km along the ridge  (down to Grisedale Tarn and up Dollywaggon etc.). A few people went direct but it looked steep, boulder-strewn and with a 2000ft descent – followed by re-ascent via Striding Edge >: I knew I’d be faster along the ridge and it took just over 90 mins to get to the control, approaching from the col between Lower Man and Whiteside.

photo (2)

Spikes in order: St Sunday Crag, Helvellyn, Raise (bad route choice!), last big climb back over Stybarrow Dodd, Brown Hills (minor spur to cross before dropping into Glencoynedale) then final climb to Control 5

Then my (few) critical faculties must have left me as I decided to use the same strategy for the next leg and went back upto the ridge north of Whiteside and almost up Stybarrow Dodd instead of contouring and was actually last on that leg!! Plus it was grim up in the clag and I needed to put my cag on.

The next leg along the NW of Greenside was lovely and an area I’d never been to before. Great running, nice and bouncy, control in a ghyll, got there 4hrs into the race and contoured across an expanse of tussock before picking up a path route to No 5 flanking around the head of Glencoyndale, again somewhere I’d never been. I was running in dob spikes and must have caught on a rock as I fell flat on the scree to the side of the path, winded myself and gashed my right hand. I lay whimpering for a minute or so then got up and walked on, later getting back into a cautious jog. At least the control was quite easy as I was well and truly knackered now!

There was a 4km path route to No 6 and what did I do but fall over again adding a 3rd cut to the same hand. Will confine spikes to orienteering only as I did get on well with them on the 1st half of the race! From the last control at Lanty’s Tarn there was a taped route back to the Finish in 6hr 3mins (winner 4hr 14) and a welcome chilli from Podium Catering. Got a nice 60th Anniversary Mountain Trial tumbler which has to be worth the 2 tumbles!! It was a great race, I need to be more flexible in my route planning strategies in future though. And wear my SpeedCrosses!

Dave was a creditable 3rd in M50 on the 18-mile Classic race, here he is finishing & enjoying his free post-race meal from Podium Catering.

photo (1)

photo (2)

And my wounds…

photo (3)

The battle scars of all the good times … with apologies to Soft Cell!

Results and RouteGadget available at: http://www.ldmta.org.uk/news.html

Next post – Round Rotherham 50 miles Oct 18th. Fixed route & folks to follow! Happy days for a plodder who doesn’t like decisions!!

It was the first time either of us had done this Lakeland classic and it won’t be the last! At 9.5 miles and 3000ft of ascent, it’s enjoyable for the quick pace of the descent via Hart Crag and High and Low Pikes. The start and finish at Rydal Hall had a lovely atmosphere and good facilities. It’s entry on the day and there is a rigorous kit check!

ViewRanger trace of route. Trace went a bit AWOL just after Hart Crag as I followed the ridge!

ViewRanger trace of route. Trace went a bit AWOL just after Hart Crag as I followed the ridge!


1km after the Start, on the way up to Heron Pike. Photo purchased from Atheletesinaction.co.uk

1km after the Start, on the way up to Heron Pike. Photo purchased from Atheletesinaction.co.uk

It took 1hr 10 mins to get to the top of Fairfield, and from there the wind really caught you! The altitude profile below shows that the descent was pretty quick. There was an option of dropping to the left after Low Pike, and I think this would have been quicker. We both stuck to the ridge and had to negotiate the bad step!!

ViewRanger altitude profile. It really was a race of two halves!

ViewRanger altitude profile. It really was a race of two halves!

I’d not taken any drink with me and was feeling the first twinges of cramp but managed to finish before anything pinged! My brother John was the race organiser and he collared me with the mic at the Finish. When I mentioned cramp, support-veteran Sarah came over with a welcome cup of squash! ❤
Results can be found at: http://www.amblesideac.org.uk/Fairfield_2014_results.htm

This race was my first ultra, back in 2011, and it has grown from a field of just 19 when it started in 2009. It’s always a friendly event and nice to run a course without navigation so I was keen to do it again! The first 22 miles is along the Forth-Clyde Canal to Falkirk where a very short climb at the iconic Falkirk Wheel takes you up to the Union Canal and –  33.5 miles later – Edinburgh.


ViewRanger trace of the route. You are running west to east all day – as they say at the Start, if the canal isn’t on your right, you’re lost!

We had a hotel booked in each city, and arrived at Glasgow’s Ruchill Park at 8:30 for a 9am start. People seemed to go off quite fast, as born out by my 1hr 55 split for Auchinstarry at 13.1 miles, the 1st checkpoint.

It was quite wet and muddy along the towpaths but my brother came up on the train with his bike to pace me and this was a real boost, as well as having Dave and veteran flask-opener and boiled-egg-peeler Sarah at all the checkpoints and lots of bridges!

Towpath monotony. Sometimes you can see fluorescent dots of other runners ahead of you but most often not!

Towpath monotony. Sometimes you can see fluorescent dots of other runners ahead of you but most often not!

Altitude profile - basically shows the Union Canal is a bit higher that the Forth-Clyde!

Altitude profile – basically shows the Union Canal is a bit higher than the Forth-Clyde!

Falkirk, the only hill. There used to be 11 lochs here before the wheel was built to lift boats between the 2 canals

Falkirk, the only hill. There used to be 11 lochs here before the wheel was built to lift boats between the 2 canals

Falkirk is the psychological half way point at 22 miles, partly because you can have a bag taken there by the organisers. But actually it’s 6 miles before half-way, which is an hour’s running! I got to Falkirk at 12:30 (exactly same time as 2011) and had a pie, coffee and cake. Ten minutes sit down – the longest in the race but well worth it.

Then a walk up the hill to start the 11.5 mile slog to Linlithgow. There are 2 long tunnels at the start of this section and the lovely Almond Aquaduct towards the end. I kept going, the sun came out, and John caught me up on the bike so I got to Linlithgow at 14:45, just 5 mins ahead of my 2011 time.

Team Chaffey-Brockbank at Linlithgow

Had a wrap, a Redbull and some coffee at the pretty Linlithgow checkpoint and off again. The sections are shorter from here and there’s a feeling that it’s in the bag, even though there’s still 22 miles to go!

2km after Linlithgow Dave  pointed out the Forth Bridges in the far distance

ViewRanger trace of the last 22 miles. A mile after Linlithgow, Dave pointed out the Forth Bridges in the far distance

John cycled ahead after Broxburn to catch his train home from Edinburgh, and Sarah and Dave intercepted me at several bridges between there and Ratho. After seeing me at Hermiston they went to check in at the hotel, then backtracked the route from the Finish at Edinburgh Quay, meeting me about a mile out.

Through the city

Through the city

I’d managed to carry on running all the way so my time was almost an hour faster than 2011 and I was delighted to finish 62nd in a time of 10 hours 10 mins, and even more delighted to stop running! Next time I do this, it’ll be in a barge!!

Link to Resolute Events homepage and Results.

Proudly sporting medal and T shirt!

Proudly sporting medal and T shirt!

Wilmot Wander 2014

I’ve done this race 4 times before and always enjoy it as a kick-start to the year’s racing. Two years ago Dave joined me and helped me get a PB of 5hrs 45 – this year was nowhere near that due to rain, wind, mud and more mud!

full trace Jan 2016

The Scout hut is under the “Derby” label. The route goes anticlockwise – the black line is a reckie, the red line is the whole beast!


The race starts at the 27th Derby Scout HQ in Chaddesden, with walkers setting off from 7am and runners from 8 (so there’s generally someone to follow). The route goes NE through Locko Park then down to the 1st checkpoint at Stanley for squash and Jelly Babies, then you follow the Mid-Shires Way to Morley & Drum Hill. I was now wet enough to put my cag on! Then the 1st walk up Little Eaton Hill and down the steps to Checkpoint 2 The Bridge Inn.

altitude profile labels

ViewRanger says “Total climb: 615 metres”

I was very slow on this 3rd section due to mud – it was like running through glue for 90 mins! There was a diversion due to a bridge being destroyed near Mackworth. This avoided going up the hill to Lower Vicarwood, but made it about half a km longer. Past Mackworth water tower and onto Checkpoint 3 Radbourne for a welcome cup of coffee. Felt sorry for the marshals under their gazebo but they all did a great job.

The next section is very pretty, then you end up in Mickleover where there’s a slight hill which everyone dreads as it coincides with going through the wall! Checkpoint 4 is at the Toyota works at Burnaston (more coffee!) and 10 mins later you take your life in your hands to cross the A38. Soon into Findern where I met Dave for moral support along the much-feared 5-mile canal section. He bought me a glucose drink which I was very glad of as I was starting to cramp and I don’t carry drink on this race as the checkpoints have plenty. He also put my map onto page 5 which was no mean feat as it was looking like papier mache!

The last checkpoint is where you leave the canal at Swarkestone, from which it’s about an hour to the Finish but a lot of willpower is needed as the cycle paths are quite monotonous. Across the bridge over the A52 and back to the Scout Hut in 6hrs 38 to a good spread of soup, tea and cake. Job done!!

Link to the beginnings of the race

Probably about half a kilo of mud on each leg?!

Probably about half a kilo of mud on each leg?!

I’m told that many of our orienteering club members did this race back in the day, but it was the 1st time for Dave and I, and 2nd time for Graham. Race day started inauspiciously when we woke up at the time we were meant to leave the house, but we made it to Registration at Milford Cricket Club 30 mins or so before the Start.

It’s a 16.5 mile race with free navigation between 4 trig points in a figure of 8 loop with a water station at the intersection where you go over a new railway bridge. We paid £1 for the A3 map but had done an armchair recce using the orienteering maps from Sherbrook, Fairoak & Brindley and a tiny bit of Brereton.

ViewRanger tace of the route I took. Start & Finish at top left, Castle Ring trig at bottom right

ViewRanger tace of the route I took. Start & Finish at top left, Castle Ring trig at bottom right

We started at 11:10 and it was cold and clear but we could see a murky front creeping in. I followed the majority for the 1st 500m but then made sure I approached the trig at Rifle Ranges via Cherrytree Slade, just off the main SherbrookValley. From here it was past the visitor centre to Moors Gorse where the railway bridge was with a timeout of up to 2 mins as there was a road crossing & drinks point.

Now for the big climb up to Castle Ring fort (235m) where I crossed paths with Dave exiting. Then it was north to the trig at Brereton and back down to Moors Gorse (92 mins for Dave, 106 for me). A long slog up Marquis Drive followed by some semi-tricky navigation to the trig at Glacial Boulder, just less than 3km from the Finish where Dave and Graham were waiting for me 25 and 15 mins after their own finishes! They must have been seriously cold. I took 2h 45 and died a bit in the 2nd half probably due to to my sugar-free diet (3 month yeast detox). Mind you I transgressed and had a macaroon at Moors Gorse and wolfed the maltloaf at download.

Altitude profile - middle spike is Castle Ring with the Moors Grose dips at approx 1 & 2 hours

Altitude profile – middle spike is Castle Ring with the Moors Grose dips at approx 1 & 2 hours

It was a good atmosphere with about 170 runners, always someone to follow, albeit at a distance. The route choice is a bonus but often I followed the person ahead, thumbing the map for reassurance. It was great to piece together the many bits of Cannock and I’d recommend the race to orienteers!

Result at http://www.merciafellrunners.org.uk/results/214

Next post: Wilmot Wander 26/1/14

Team Chaffey Photo: Graham Johnson

Team Chaffey
Photo: Graham Johnson

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