Wednesday 13 April 2016

Rotterdam marathon 2016

Like 2015 but slower: TL;DR 4:16:51: shocking I know, but wait! I have excuses.

Firstly, I'd done essentially no training. Secondly, I'd hurt my back in Sabaudia on the last day and it took a week to recover. Third, I'd spent the previous weekend in Yorkshire (is that an excuse?). Fourth, I'd still got the cough I (probably) caught off Chris in Sabaudia, and I suspect probably most importantly, still got the edge of a mild flu.

 The ferry over was much like last year - Harwich still haven't fixed their gangway, so you still have to go into the ferry by bus. This time I walked from the ferry to the end of the breakwater, and then back and then on to Maassluis West because I could. Indeed with more time I could have walked all the way into Rotterdam, it really isn't very far; but 16 km the day before a marathon was probably a bit silly. To the Mainport Design Hotel, which is just by the Maritime museum and convenient for the start next day (to compare with Pincoffs from last year: both are nice, this one is more expensive, this one wins as more conveniently situated). All insanely over the top - for example my room had a jacuzzi in it, which really I'd rather not have had, but I'd booked late and didn't have much choice of room. And there was a sauna in the bathroom. But there was a lovely view out over the river and the quay of the museum. Eat in for dinner - pasta - and then spend some time in the evening trying to photograph myself in some impressive way.
Anyway, the day dawned clear and still and I went down to breakfast nice and early. The buffet was good, but the one in the Neue Post in Innsbruck was better. There was enough time to do everything, most especially to check my watch was charged and go to the toilet five times. Leave bag with hotel having checked out, and off: its warm enough in the sun but chill out of it; I could do with a binliner. There's the usual (for Rotterdam) confusion of getting to the start: since they wall bits off, you need to wiggle round back streets. But, there's time, especially since it doesn't start till about 10:20. Somewhat tastelessly - or so I thought, given Boston - each "wave" was started with a loud bang and/or some kind of firework. Well, who cares? I started off not fast, but settled into just-better-than-5:30-per-km, which was fine by me, since 4h was my aim, feeble though that is. I went through half way in 1:57 I think, which was just about in touch; but was overtaken by the 4 h pacers at about 26 km as we went back over the Erasmusbrucke; and I struggled with any kind of pace after that. I settled for aiming for 6:30 - oh dear - but allowing myself to walk through water points, and how I looked forward to the next water point! But finally the last few km drew nigh, and I imagined myself rowing down the Cam thinking its not very far now, and at last I finished and oh how good it was to stop.


* Meanwhile, JA was running 2:54:41, but he had to do it in Manchester.

Saturday 2 April 2016

Three days in Yorkshire with three girls

The semi-annual Coton ex-school-parents trip to somewhere to climb something came round again, and this year was to Yorkshire to do the Three Peaks. This isn't an area I know much about - it turns out to be close to the Ribblehead viaduct, which you might know, and Settle of James and Julia fame, and not far away from Skipton and Bolton Abbey of Hirst fame.

Some slightly confusing combination of Clare and Nigel had organised choices of accommodation - I hate choice - and fortunately we choose the bunkhouse, because that was where all the Kool Kidz were, so we blended right in. We drove up on Wednesday afternoon, fairly painlessly, guided by Google; unpacked our excess kit and excess food, and settled in. We'd brought, but didn't need, carry mats; I didn't even need my sleeping bag just the liner, because it was warm. Present were Clare, Stan (somewhat grown up) and Gemma, Ross and Karen and Olivia and Matthew, Paul and Helen and Vivian and Ginny (arriving late), the Gabriel Foxes, Nigel and Anna and Cosmo and Joshi (later, and camper vanning), Charlie and Tommy, Nigel's-friend-Ivor, and some other people whom I quite likely talked to but, being me, didn't remember the names of.

Thursday was the fair weather day so those who wanted to were going to do the full three-peaks-in-a-day, starting off from Horton-in-Ribblesdale at 7, to make sure they had time. However they took the precaution of not fully packing the night before and leaving slightly late with much to-ing and fro-ing, so didn't get off, I'm told, till 7:30. We sluggards were to meet them at The Station Inn, Ribblehead or thereabouts, and a time somewhat like 12:30. So we got there about 12, but it was a lovely day, so waiting around was no problem. We sent the three girls off in the direction we expected the Peakers to come from, then realised we didn't know where the girls were, and chased after them. Anyway, about 12:30 people came in, in three groups, and we went back from the tea-van at the t-junction up to the pub, because they wanted a sit-down. Once we'd all regrouped and so on we set off up number two (for them) which was Whernside, at 1:15. GPS trace, until it died on the way down. It's a lovely route and it was a lovely day for it, starting off under the Ribblehead viaduct and then heading upwards via a clear, obvious and easy path - this is a popular route. We got to the top at 3:25 and had a leisurely time admiring the glorious views.

Isn't that lovely? And a light sprinkling of snow too just to set it off. In total we spent about 25 minutes up there, including waiting for the hindguard, so didn't start down till nearly 4, and I was somewhat wondering to myself why the Peakers weren't a bit keener to get themselves going. But down we went, to the Hill Inn which kinda looked shut but we sat in its garden anyway and the braver folk went inside and inveigled drinks out of them. I'd left my car here (actually just up the hill where there's space, as the Hill Inn folk are pretty fierce about not parking anywhere near them) so took Clare and Karen a few km back to the start to pick up their cars. When we got back I picked up the Girlies and we went back to the barn, leaving the others to their drinks. We showered and so on, I sat around happily reading Adam Smith. Very much later on we were sitting back in the living room rather wondering where the Peakers were, as it was long after dark - about 10 pm - and we'd had no word. It turned out that they'd ended up in a slower and a faster group; the faster had made it round, but the slower had watched the sunset from Ingleborough and found the downgoing in the dark more troublesome than expected, despite the near-perfect weather, and so had taken a deliberate shortcut - instead of coming down to the Horton railway station, they'd taken a quicker route to a road about 2.5 NNW on the B6479, between South House Farm and Gill Garth Farm. And then finding them there and so on had proved tricky, reception being poor. Poor Ivor, who had finished earlier, had even gone up looking for them, but of course because they were off the route he didn't find them. Anyway, all ended well and those who had made their Peaks were happy if footsore.

In case you were wondering, I had a cricked back from the Sabaudia trip and wasn't fit to run round - as I'd originally intended - so decided that backing off was the path of greatest sanity. Back home the girlies wanted fish-n-chips, and we went out for Generic Coop Food and f-n-c, but by the time we got to the chippie it had closed (shuts 8:30) but the girls pronounced themselves pretty full anyway so meh.

Friday was not a fair weather day. Whilst not actively raining it was overcast; anyone who'd done the Peaks yesterday was not inclined to join us so I and the girlies set off to do Ingleborough in the morning weather-window, since the afternoon was slated to be worse. We drove down to Clapham so we could traverse it, and because the start-of-walk from there looked nice, and so it was. Here we are in the village on the bridge over the stream, just about to admire a cat.


Notice how unsuitable Miranda's bag is for a mountain; and (more subtly) Maddie's too, since it was completely water-un-proof. GPS trace of the route. It starts as a "toll path" (but its cheap) up though a pleasant sheltered valley, then out into a little limestone-walled, errm, valley with interesting caves, then out onto the rather more exposed tops, where we found an exciting sinkhole and explored it down to the "chute" at the end that we didn't explore. Then, onwards and upwards. The higher up and more exposed the stronger the wind grew, and it was a strong and bitter wind, exposing our not-really-Yorkshire standard of clothing. Still, we pushed on. At 600 m (the top is 723 m) we got to a "false summit" with a nice semi-circle dry stone wall behind which we gratefully sheltered, and I destroyed Miranda's illusions by telling her it wasn't the summit. I was seriously considering going back: the wind really was very strong, and my fingers were cold, and I wasn't sure if the girlies morale would hold out; but to my surprise their fires were undimmed and so we went on and up. It wasn't much further. At the top is a vast tableland, or so it appeared in the cloud / mist, but I didn't have my head up looking around oh no my head was down avoiding the horizontal snow. After a mis-step corrected by the phone, that invaluable walking tool, we found shelter in the, errm, shelter - a most providential three-walled windshelter which provides a lee no matter which way the wind may be blowing. Taking bearings again we set off correctly, found the perfectly clear path down, and kept going down, finding shelter from the wind eventually. And so down into Ingleton, where we went into the climbing cafe for hot chocolate and on the off chance of finding the others, since they were going there at some point. But, no. So I ordered a taxi and took the girls back to the barn, and then myself to Clapham to pick up the car, and then off to Settle to find James and Julia and their magnificent palace-temple (head out of Settle on the Kirkby Malham road, its just up the hill, easily recognsiable by the stained glass). Having told them the girls were coming too I was obliged to eat more than my fair share of cake, and drink lots of tea, and bemoan with them the state of the blogging world: things ain't what they used to be. James, amusingly, is planning to run the Peaks in the upcoming race and will be disappointed with more than four hours. And so home, via a tour of the undercroft. Profiting by our knowledge of chippie shutting time we got there in time to buy two cod-n-chips, one chips, and one scampi-n-chips, which did us quite well, indeed I got to finish off Miranda's cod.

Saturday was also no fair weather day. But I could not restrain the girls, they insisted on doing Pen-y-ghent and so we again picked the likeliest weather window - starting around 10 - to head up from Horton (from us, drive to Ribblehead, turn R to Horton, drive all the way through and just at the end is a little loop of road for convenient parking, and head off up the banks of the stream past the primary school). GPS trace. Today was rain, but mercifully little wind. The rain was continuous rather than torrential; P-y-g was hidden in the clouds at all times.

Here's a selfie of us at the summit, taken by Alice who has far more experience of such things than me, my attempt was rubbish.


We look a bit bedraggled but cheerful, which is about right. The path heads up onto the moors soon enough and is pretty easy to follow and to walk; its also quite direct to the summit so despite some determined girlie slowness we steadily knocked off the height - I love walking with a GPS altimeter - and got to the "steep bit" which is quite fun and was very nearly scrambling, in that at one point I thought about holding on to a rock with one hand. And so to the top, where we sheltered from the wind in the helpful windshelter rather than admiring the non-existent views. To come down we made a loop of it for fun, down the Penine Way (see the GPS trace) and so back to the car somewhat damp around the edges but not in our cores. On a day of lovely sunshine I'd be rhapsodising about the views and the lovely track; today I could tell you about me undamming little mud dams on the path, but you don't want to hear about that.

And so back, quick shower, bit of food, pack, say goodbye to those who were there, and head off; back by a curiously quicker route that involved some unplanned diversions into Bradford, due to my unfamiliarity with navigating via google maps. And if you wish to complain that was four days, not three, then I shall ignore you. Daughter.