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Hardmoors 55 – Results

Hardmoors 55 – Results

Posted on March 18, 2012 by Chris Baynham-Hughes

Just back having spent the weekend up in Saltburn and on the stunning North Yorkshire moors. As part of my training, and as a blatant excuse to go up and see Sophie, Nick and Tommy, I entered the Hardmoors 55. A 55 mile race across the North Yorkshire moors from Helmsley to Guisborough and manages 2700 metres of ascent on the way.

I’ll put together a full race report later or will just add to this one (I’ve got a picture or two and a video to add in), but I’m conscious of how far I am behind on this blog already! So to the result, I was joint 5th overall in a time of 9 hours, 9 minutes and 45 seconds. I managed to get lost at mile 5 as I looked down for a moment to grab some food and drink and when I looked up everybody had gone. This was the start of a nervy run navigation wise as local knowledge would make for a far happier run on this course. I think that contributed to me not feeling like I found a rhythm I was over 30 miles in.

This was my frist run with a support crew – Nick appeared just after Wainstones on his mountain bike and provided me with some much needed lube which I phoned ahead for. Sore ankles, tires legs, these are all things one can deal with, but chaffing is something else. Nick’s mountain bike enduro experiences were evident as he provided perfect support, cycling on ahead and getting out food to hand over, etc so I didn’t lose time. As always I’d packed enough food for the 5000, but hey, I’ll get it right one day!

Nick rode with me for a while and it was great to catch up; I finally started to find my rhythm and managed to overtake two people without even noticing, but in fairness this was because I never actually passed them, they went the wrong way! Once we hit the road to Kildale Nick carcked on to find the rest of my support crew – Sophie and Tommy + Laura and the boys.

As I came up to the top of the hill on the small road section I could have sworn I heard Rhys shout; “Daddy!”. I looked around but couldn’t see anybody so thought it must just be in my head, but as I reached the brow of the hill I saw a little man in a red coat running towards me. To say I had a lift to see Rhys, Laura, James, Sophie, Tommy and Nick all at the top of the hill is an understatement. I think the video makes that evident; I even look like I’m running well… considering it was mile 40 ish I look like I’m going really well!

It was after this that I really started to reel in the remaining leaders and moved up to joint 5th with the first lady and current ladies record holder. I was good not only to chat the last few miles through, but also not to go wrong in those final stages and finish before dark.

Cracking race, great marshals, truly stunning views and relatively simple climbs. Mistakes aside and better preparation in place I reckon I could shave 20-30 minutes off my time. The key lessons learned were:

1) Don’t try to eat every 20 minutes… it’s too often!

2) Establishing a rhythm early is really important – latching on with some people to talk to or running with friends for the first 20 is a winner

3) I need to do more descending in my training

4) I need to do more long runs rather than lots of 10 milers – at least a 20 or 30 miler each weekend (or similar duration run)

5) I need to run with my backpack on and practising eating

6) Having a support crew makes a world of difference!

Thanks to everybody invovled who made it a great day – this includes the chip shop owner for my tea and the Welsh Rugby team for another Grandslam and thoroughly absorbing game!   A perfect day!

The big ones! Part 1 – Leg 3

The big ones! Part 1 – Leg 3

Posted on March 18, 2012 by Chris Baynham-Hughes

I’m starting to spot a theme these days. If I go up to do a BG recce, then it snows. So far I’ve done three, granted they have been in the winter months, but there are plenty of days and weekends that have seen no snow and clear visibility… just not when I’ve been around.

Andy Robinson and I headed up on Friday night – Andy is also taking on and attempt of the BGR this year, and he kindly organised this weekend. Starting at the Grassmere YHA (very impressive I thought and have since become a member) we managed a couple of beers before heading back trying to ignore the weather forecast.

Unfortunately the weather forecast was spot on, so we faced very poor visibility, wet/ boggy grass and high winds. Four of us set off up the very steep  sheep trod to Steel Fell from Dunmail; Andy R, Andy… Martin Wilcock and me. Finding the top of Steel fell seemed pretty simple, although it all looked very much the same from then on. I had “virtual Simon” with me as Simon Noble had kindly shared his waypoints for Leg 3 so I was trying to follow and find the  little short cuts and trods that he’s found over the years. Unfortunately in poor vis’ it’s very difficult and I found myself head down looking at the watch rather than the path. This was coupled with the two Andy’s knowing pretty much where they were going and thus not convinced by virtual Simon.

The idiot goes solo

We split up slightly and despite not travelling any quicker, I made it to Calf Crag a good few minutes ahead of the other boys – in my mind, virtual Simon ruled the route from then on. Back together as a team we cracked on as I understood it to head to High Raise – leg 3 has a route preference here as both Sergeant Man and High Raise are very close. We ended up splitting up in the poor vis’ and at that point I figured I’d just crack on to High Raise using the GPS and meet the others there.

I must have waited for around 15 minutes with the visibility coming in and out.  No sign of them, so I figured they must have gone to Sergeant Man first. I was chilling down in the strong winds and rain/ mist so I had to move. I thought I’d either missed them and was now behind, or I would pass them as I went to Sergeant Man, so I left voice mails and set off. I reached Sergeant man passing two other blatant BG hopefuls and they told me they were ahead. Phew! I was confident I could catch them and it was an opportunity to run some sections at pace and check back after to see if I was going to be quick enough.

Traversing some boggy ground to cut a corner between SM and Thunacar Knott I heard the shouts and saw the Andy’s running across just behind the other two boys. My heart sank as I realised that Martin wasn’t with them. Thankfully he’d not got lost, but unfortunately he’d had to go back. A bug had been going around the family which meant that he was not in a happy place running wise – things were running, but it wasn’t his legs, so a wise retreat and second time drop out for Martin. A real shame, but he’s got his MdS coming up soon, so it’s not worth taking chances. At least his “OMM suit” got an outing – very smart it was too

Back together again we battled the wind and rain to start ticking off the tops. I was blown off my feet on Thunacar Knott and getting to the tops of the Stickles (Pike O’ and Harrison) is frustrating as it feels like one loses so much time picking over the rocks to the summit.

The clag clears… for a second

Next came what was one of my favorite parts of the day. I enjoy it when I find a mellow but quick path and shave off large chunks of distance. We’d agreed to take the long way around – to head over to the Stake pass and contour on the very runnable path – the theory being that the alternative down then up is more energy draining and time wise it was thought there wouldn’t be much in it. (Un)fortunately we didn’t go wide enough and thus ended up at the head of the path for the down and up (Black Crags). Quick route change and we’re squelching our way through marsh lands to the base of Black Crags. The Trod up to Rossett Pike is so easy to find, super easy to cover and no effort on the ankles (I hate contouring usually as it ankles the feet out and can be really tiring). Route choice for the day made!

I guess at this point it’s worth me diving out into a kit review as I’d taken the plunge and bought myself some seal skin socks (it’s the name of the make, they aren’t really made of seal skins). The socks are supposed to keep your feet dry and are a bit like a thin neoprene sock… frankly they are totally weird to put on and if I hadn’t been warned of this then I’d probably have left them behind. I’d chose to put on a really thin sport sock liner underneath and tape my feet and pray they didn’t blister!

Running fells means wet feet, it’s something one just gets on with as a fell runner; however in winter this can result in frozen and very sore feet as they feel like lumps of wood at the end of your legs. I’m delighted to report that this is not so with the sealskin socks! My feet felt dry for almost the entire day (I did go up to my hip at one point in the marshes, so I don’t feel that is a fair test) and even when they were wet, they were warm and it was only slightly damp rather than sopping wet and then having to carry that with me for the rest of the day (unlike Goretex shoes!). It may sound odd to normal people, but having warm and (mostly) dry feet was a revelation! I am totally converted. My only complaint is that I got the large which is rated as 9-11 – I’m a 9.5 in an Inov8 shoe. The heel part of the sock barely got past my heel and subsequently sunk down over the course of the run. Given I’m at the lower end of the sizing that seemed odd to me, so do try them on first – but don’t worry if they feel totally weird.. they do!

Onwards and upwards

Getting to Bow Fell was pretty torturous as far as I was concerned. zero vis’ and just some random cairns to follow did not make for an enjoyable climb. We got there to find we’d overtaken the other two guys that were recceing the course which was pretty pleasing as they weren’t only moving quicker than us, but they were a long way ahead by Harrison Stickle. We also came across the classic unprepared group out on the mountains – asking for directions to Scafell pike we told them they were a fair distance off but Andy offered to show them on the map where they were… only they didn’t have a map, or a compass. Andy pointed out to them the best route they should take off the mountain and unsubtly warned them of the dangers in the area in the conditions we were in… they seemed to get the point. Quick chat over and a sandwich eaten, we were off to Esk pike.

Before the hail

Still smiling

Now I’d got a little hopeful on Rossett Pike as the weather had cleared for a moment, before the poor vis’ had returned. The wind had picked up again though and as we attacked Great End nature decided to attack us. We suffered at the hands of what can only be described as a micro-hail storm. This was coupled with 40+ mph winds (at a guess) which meant that the micro-hail left marks on our skin even through our waterproofs. As we turned into the wind I heard a scream of expletives and saw the Andy’s retreating to find shelter. To be fair walking into the wind was agony and there was no way to see where one was going without ski goggles.




I joined them behind the rock and as we chilled down Andy Robinson took the decision to call it a day. By this stage the hail had turned to snow and it was pretty terrible. Andy and I decided to continue though; the forecast had been accurate so far and the suggestion was that it would clear later on. Desperate to get a feel for the full leg we carried on to bag Great End, Ill Crag before catching the other boys again at Broad Crag. Andy had spotted a really nice line and a little bit of squeezing through rocks had saved us a large corner on the way to Scafell Pike.

A moment of clarity

The other boys threw in the towel at this point but Andy and I seemed to be gathering strength. As we descended towards Scafell we came across a young couple – again, totally inappropriate kit (terrible waterproofs (if they were) and jeans. The look in the young lady’s eyes said it all, not only did she just want to get there, but her fella was in trouble when he got back!

Then there were two

I have to thank Andy for continuing, not only did it give me longer to get to know him and find out more about his attempt (he’d tried the previous year, but had called it a day at Bow Fell) and draw from his experiences, but it also meant that I was able to continue and get a full understanding of leg 3. Unfortunately I won’t be able to help him with his attempt as he’s planning to do it when we’re away camping, but if the weather doesn’t turn out I’d be more than keen to get out there and run with him again – like almost every long distance fell runner you meet, he was entertaining, opinionated, driven and passionate about the outdoors, but most of all he was genuine in character and the way he was living his life. Top man.

The route up Scafell is much debated. There are three options, one of which is a genuine rock climb known as broad stand. Leaving out the most direction options leaves the BG hopeful with either Lords Rake (the one we wanted to try) or Foxes tarn. We had to take Foxes tarn as we didn’t know Lord’s rake and didn’t fancy getting lost. We took the climbers traverse to ensure we didn’t lose too much height on our way to Foxes tarn and were soon at the summit of Scafell (the highest peak in England at 977 meters).

The first view into Wasdale

Below the clouds

Day 3 done!

On to Wasdale

We were on the home straight. Andy had promised me a fantastic scree descent which I was relishing the thought of, but following virtual Simon (as I had all day) we found ourselves coming down the southern most walkers path.

The visibility cleared and the view of Wasdale was truly magnificent. The path was very runnable but steeeeeeep, so we decided to experiment. So much fun I had to take a video!

Arriving in Wasdale we managed to thumb a lift from the second car and save ourselves the 3 miles to the YHA. Thank you lovely physio couple! To say the YHA is splendid is an understatement. A fantastic converted hall full of period features and just all together grand. I’m looking forward to heading back there  when we do the whole thing in over two days.

We Met with Andy R, sorted ourselves out and headed to the pub for some well earned food and beers. The pub brewed its own beer and the food was excellent. Top marks for Wasdale!!!!

Not top marks for us though as we were quite significantly off the timings required for a 23 hour schedule. In our favour is that we didn’t know the route, the visibility was terrible and the weather conditions were really unpleasant. We also weren’t racing, were coping with each other’s high and low points pace wise, and were carrying more weight than we would on the day, but the enormity of leg 3 has hit home for me and to cover the ground in the time required is no mean feat. I think one can only pick this up by doing it and it has sewn seeds of doubt into my mind not only for the approach we are taking (3 of us running together) and whether I’ve done enough recceing.

PBs and Trails

PBs and Trails

Posted on March 5, 2012 by Chris Baynham-Hughes

Returning to the trails has most certainly fed my soul. I move cautiously and am concentrating harder on where I put my feet, but when you hit a section perfectly, everything just flows in a way road running can never achieve.

Much to my horror, some heavy handed trail maintenance is afoot on the top of Helsby hill. It’s removed a small amount of technicality to the descent. The horror stems from the number of trees fell which removed the shielding from the motor way a couple of hundred feet below.

Running the berms down from the top of Helsby hill is one of my favourite sections as it’s just so quick and flows together well – hitting it perfectly can’t help but make me feel like I’m really flying (speed wise). Monday’s (27th Feb) result was a really significant PB. Getting around my course sub 1:20 – a good 2 minutes quicker than previous. The following day I was just over 1:20 so something is very right.

Maybe I haven’t lost as much form as I feared I had during my lay off… top of the pops!

Running in Sunderland

Running in Sunderland

Posted on March 5, 2012 by Chris Baynham-Hughes

Lee Foster’s stag do (25th Feb) meant a run in unfamiliar territory for me. Heading out from Sunderland I ran the path under the bridge along side the mouth of the river and out along the coast.

Running is such a fantastic way to get comfortable with a new place. .Taking in the sights and getting a feel for how friendly the local people are as they go about their everyday lives. My acid test is to say “Morning!” to everyone and see the ratio of shocked/ quizzical looks to “Morning!”s I get in return.

The weather was superb and if we weren’t heading out I could have easily added a couple of house to my run. Mostly blue skies and a coastline always bring a warm satisfied “good to be alive” feeling. so running through seaburn was a joy.

Running out to the sea, it’s hard not to see the scars of industry, but what struck me was the architecture. Leaving Lee’s beautiful period home (rich in cornices, 11 foot plus ceilings and superb natural lighting all coming together to create an astonishing feeling of space) to then struggle to see any buildings pre-dating the 70′s was all at odds. Only later did one of the boys explain that many buildings were pulled down to make way for these ugly replacements… all in the name of progress eh! What a huge shame! Still a cracking run and much as I love Frodsham, I’d love to be close to that coast!

Clag and Microspikes

Clag and Microspikes

Posted on March 5, 2012 by Chris Baynham-Hughes

Late last year I sat down with Laura to set dates where I could either race or recce; this ensured Laura could schedule in fun stuff for herself – visits or visitors for the weekends and I could slip away unnoticed and guilt free to concentrate on my training. Of course everybody else involved in the BG attempt have their own system too and getting coordination turns into a nightmare. I faced the prospect of heading up to the lakes alone for a recce as I knew Andy wouldn’t be around and both Martin and Sam had not been able to make it when I first shared the dates with them. I was happy to give it a go though and in my disorganised style set about organising the day and logistics.

In the final fortnight, slowly but surely everything fell into place – as the reels spun and clicked into final position I almost hit the jackpot; a last minute drop out from Martin due to illness was the only imperfection – although that did mean that we would all fit in the one car!

I went from a solo mission to being joined by Sam, Simon Noble, Karl and Wayne. Wayne kindly offered to do the driving, whilst Simon and Karl showed us the way – all Sam and I needed to do was to get a feel for the route and try to remember the path turnings… oh, and stay on our feet!

Mudclaws and Microspikes

Staying on our feet was an additional challenge due to the conditions. The snowline lay around 2000ft and only a week before (contemplating the run with just Sam and me) a call to a taxi firm for a quote revealed we may not be able to drive to the start due to ice! For me this added further excitement as I’d finally get to try out my microspikes!


Gimp – the versatility of Microspikes



Logistics sorted , on Friday night I sat watching random TV waiting for Sam to turn up, only to realise I had a call block set up on my phone – turns out he’d been waiting outside for quarter of an hour (sorry Sam!). I was mortified, but no harm was done and just enough time to get some sleep in before an early leave





As Wayne drove us up to the lakes it became clear we were in safe hands. In University challenge terms, Wayne’s specialist subject is the BG and the history of the run. Having supported countless attempts, and having completed it himself in well under 22 hours (He was running for Helsby at the time – the only Helsby runner I know to have done it) Wayne’s knowledge is invaluable and I tried to pick his brains clean.

Coming into Keswick a different way than expected meant my directions were useless and we were delayed getting to Simon’s to pick him up. We should have trusted the milkman’s directions! No harm done though and after the obligatory faffing we were off just in time to discover my camera battery was flat! Typical: Lesson one, never assume the spare has been charged.

Simon, Sam, Wayne and Karl @ Honister

I was buzzing walking up Dale head. It’s one of the few familiar paths for me and holds memories of a fated Gold D of E expedition as well as a fantastic weekend away with Laura where she swept  me clean off my feet… literally! She did this by doing exactly as I suggested: “Just let your breaks off and run down it, I’ll stop you”. I braced to stop Laura and at the last second realised it wasn’t going to end well! Looking back now she displayed total trust in me and no fear of the descent… she’d make an excellent fell runner!

An aggressive combination!


Hitting the snowline the Microspikes came out for Simon, Karl and myself; Sam put on his Yaktraks. Dale head is an easy navigational exercise so as we hit the clag we were confident and had little issue reaching the summit. The snow formation on the summit cairn was spectacular and the photo really doesn’t do it justice!

Way too much lycra!


The snow on the day switched between enjoyable and frustrating and never lent itself to predictability. Each step was either straight through (I can deal with that), firm (ideal) or firm until one pushed off whereby it gave way (worst case) bringing that altogether meant a random step generator and no one approach could be relied upon – a lot of extra muscular effort was involved as a result. Damn fun though and whilst all the clag surrounded us didn’t life, the metaphorical clag from all the stresses of general life lifted easily and I was once again awash with a sense of freedom I don’t have the vocabulary to describe any further.

Navigationally leg 5 doesn’t seem too difficult although I can only confirm that once I’ve been there again in poor visibility and not relied on anybody else for guidance. There are plenty of places to go wrong, but a few notes will surfice rather than relying on bearings. Of course by this stage of the attempt I’ll be mentally banjoed, so even straight forward navigation will prove a challenge… I guess we’ll see. There are also some clear runnable sections unless visibility is down to zero.

Beneath the clouds – the view that awaits those that get to the final descent


Descending below the clag, the beauty of the valley raced ahead of us. Debate raged over the fastest and best routes off Robinson, but unless pushed for time, either will suffice. As the gradient eased we were able to stretch our legs a bit and reach the car park where Wayne was waiting. We jumped in feeling pleased with ourselves and breathed a collective sigh of relieve at not having to run the road in – especially in mudclaws!


Extended faffing began in Keswick. Wayne filled us with soup and Sam produced the king of all snacks – a pork pie! A new found respect for Sam washed over me

Now up until this point I assumed all was well with Sam’s choice of traction. Alas the Yaktraks had been slipping off constantly and it had become clear that they are fine for walking but running was out. A trip to Fishers and £45 lighter, Sam was suitably shod.

The run from moot hall is easy to get wrong both directionally and pace wise. With Karl leading we got a sweat on as we ran up to the car park where Simon had started in order to get a head start on us whippersnappers. We passed Wayne and set about reeling in Simon.

The route up Skiddaw is very well trodden by tourists and no problem to follow. We still got plenty of funny looks for out outfits – two in shorts split by a man in tights. That aside we were better prepared than most walkers due to the microspikes. As soon as we hit the snow line Sam felt the difference and each change in terrain from then on was punctuated by Sam expressing his pleasure in having made his purchase.


Catching up with Simon wasn’t easy and it hammered home how much of the Bob is about fast walking uphill. To cover the distance and ascent the key is to walk all the up, being able to transition from run to walk to run is critical and to do it efficiently is the key as it appears to be a slightly different muscle set. Taking in the top was mildly confusing in the visibility as there are several bumps on the top ridge, but getting off the top is relatively easy as a few markers lead the way.

Visibility was very poor and conditions underfoot were worse. As we crossed to Great Calva we took the bog motorway which has been carved by so many BG attempts/ recces. Mix that with snow that held up around 20% of the time and it equals an energy sapping trudge to frozen feet. The waterproof socks I’d

Ghost runner

ordered at the last minute hadn’t arrived and I was already missing them!

By the time we reached Great Calva I was disillusioned with leg 1. It’s about as miserible and bleak as the lake district gets and until I return in better weather I’ll be concerned about navigation there. Combine this with terrible conditions underfoot and feet that felt like lumps of wood and it could quite easily lead to an early sense of humour failure.

One peak left to get to and with zero vis we took a safe route down rather than the direct route. This sparked debate over the best route. Direct through the heather which is thigh high in summer and lumpy underfoot or down a mossy fence line with several attack points and catching features (oh yes, I know the

Great Calva. Great team.

navigational lingo now – see next post).The distance is greater, but it is better underfoot and far more difficult to get lost. The risk of turning an ankle is greatly reduced… but I’ve not tried the alternative line yet so the jury is out. Route choices like these greatly depend upon the runner – a great descender would take the heather assuming they aren’t nursing an injury, but I can’t see there being more than 10 minutes in it and it would take more energy so ultimately the route we took is probably best. It’s all about the effect it will have by the time you get to leg 4 really.

We reached the top of Blencathra to find a group of crampon shod walkers with ice aces. Whilst people are more used to seeing people running in the lake district, especially on the BGR route, I love the looks of disbelief I receive as a mountain runner. I think back to times when I used to walk with an enormous rucksack full to the brim of stuff I didn’t really need (but felt were essential) and would see some lunatic in the shortest possible shorts, a ‘wifebeater’ vest and plimsolls – let’s just say I understand the looks we get. I love it though, the feeling of doing something different – part of a hidden subculture of eccentrics.

We descended Doddick fell which is the slower, but safer of the three routes. I had a ‘mare. As we approached the snowline we had to remove the spikes because it was quite slushy, but the ground was still too frozen to properly take a stud; combine that with rocks and a sore semi-healed ankle and it doesn’t play for a good result.

It was such a frustrating and slow descent, but whilst my ankle is still recovering it was best to put the breaks on. My quads got a hammering as a result though, not being able to just go with the terrain. Combined with frozen feet and steep slopes meant a good few days of soreness were to follow.

Arriving back at the car everyone was beaming. Wayne had been chatting to a cousin of Fell running royalty (BG record holder Billy Bland) before chatting with Kenny Stewart, another fell running legend who’s records for Snowdon and Ben Nevis seem unlikely to ever be broken. They have already stood for well over 20 years! Sadly we missed him by minutes – it would have been the icing on the cake of a superb day.

Toe the line

Toe the line

Posted on February 4, 2012 by Chris Baynham-Hughes

To keep the monotony of road miles at bay I’ve been listening to music and podcasts. Regarding tyhe latter I am used to relatively short snaps of news & economics from the excellent economist podcasts, a passionate presentation on the most interesting topics from the outstanding TED talks to get me thinking, or laugh out loud comedy from Rhod Gilbert’s best bits. However, I’ve recently stumbled upon Ultrarunner podcasts and the newly launched Talk Ultra podcasts – no prices for guessing the content.

Both Ultra running podcasts are very content rich and last from 40 minute to an hour and 40 minutes – featuring news round ups from across the globe, top tips and interviews with many legend of the sport. It’s been a real insight to hear opinions and tips from these people. I’ve also recently received and watched ‘Unbreakable‘ – a feature length documentary of 2010′s Western States 100 – it features some outstanding footage from the race, the back story of the race and its founder Gordy Ainsleigh (is it just me or does Ainsley keep popping up in my ultra running journey?) and fascinating profiles of the four main contenders for the title. The field was awesome with three guys (Geoff Roes, Anton  Krupicka and Kilian Jornet) unbeaten at the 100 mile distance, along with two times WS100 winner and reigning champion Hal Koerner.

For those that haven’t heard of the WS 100 (and why would you) it is the original 100 mile race as far as modern day ultra running is concerned and follows the trail of the Tevis Cup race (a horse race started in 1955 to prove that a horse could travel 100 miles in a day). It came about since Gordy’s horse was lame and his friend told him that he didn’t think any human could cover it – in typical ultra runner spirit Gordy saw that as an irresistible challenge.

So what have I learned from all these insights? Well Geoff Roes has let me off speedwork – stating that it’s not relevant at the longer ultra distances; unsurprisingly I’ve found completion has mental fortitude and stubbornness as a dominant or near dominant component; everybody hurts – running these distances mean one will almost certainly have bad periods, so tough them out and just keep movingl getting nutrition right is vital and it’s also quite a personal thing so experimentation is key; dropping back at a point in the race doesn’t mean the end and is actually the smarter thing to do so one is ready for the second wind; and if you want to complete a stage race then you’ve got to be focused on all the positives and reasons why you’ll enjoy finishing the stagre when you toe the line. I’ve also learned that long podcasts are a great way to pass the miles whilst training!

Where has this all put me? In a positive frame of mind! I’m not going to pretend that I’m not hugely disappointed to be heading into Hardmoor not having a kicked on from Brecon. I believe I could have laid down a real marker for myself time wise and been mentally strong going to my next stepping stone. I also felt I should be able to hang with the front runners (this for me means being within an hour of the winner). I’ve got to focus on the end price though and thus I’ll be all about finishing the race for the first 45 miles or so and then see what I have left to give. Effectively I’m seeing it as a long training run rather than a race and if I can finish in under 10 hours then I’ll be pleased. The time off and the possibility of not being in a position to do well on the BGR & DBR has taught me not to take it all for granted. I certainly won’t be getting complacent after my legs being in such bad condition at the half! Above all though I’m slowly building the mental foundations for the DBR and I literally can’t wait to toe the line!



All the podcasts mentioned can be found on iTunes.

Brrr… it’s a bit nippy!

Brrr… it’s a bit nippy!

Posted on February 4, 2012 by Chris Baynham-Hughes

Crikey! It’s been a cold week to be back training. If convincing myself that setting the alarm for 5:15am is a good idea was not hard enough, doing it when it’s minus 5 degrees C requires real strength. I’ve drew that strength from the fact that I only had seven weeks until I head for the Hardmoor 55 – motivation enough!

I’m confining myself to the roads in order to give my ankle more time, and the risk of rolling it in the dark woods when the ground is frozen is pretty high, so the watch word has shifted from ‘fun’ to ‘discipline’, but I know this discipline will ultimately lead to more fun. I’ve got over the shock of my legs being completely mashed after the Helsby half and have consistently been out despite them still being in poor shape. The revelation for me however can be summed up in one word: Pace.

Not wanting to make things worse, but not prepared to quite at the first sign of difficulty I went out last Sunday aiming for 10 miles. Granted this was a week after the Helsby half, but I had been on an exercise bike and had done a few miles on the treadmill to loosen them up in the first half of the week and had done my normal commute for the latter part. I didn’t set a time or pace goal, it was just to get out there and hopefully put the miles in. I ran slower than normal and found later on that I felt like I could just keep going. After the half it felt like I’d lost all the form and enduracne I had at Brecon so the confidence I’ve taken from that is huge and will stand me in good stead for the big runs of 2012.

Despite the pace revelation, I’ve tried to be wise and have put in more cross training (read any exercise other than running… which means bike in my case)) for this first week, but have still managed to put in over 40 miles on foot within the past 6 days along with over 80 miles on the bike. Next week I’ll be back up to 50 including some trails (in the light) and a trip to the lakes for a BGR recce. Fingers crossed at the minute that Sam and Martin will both be able to join me as it’ll make for an excellent day and will build part of out Bob Graham “experience”. Weather conditions will be interesting with part of me wanting to try out my new Micro-spikes and part of me hoping the snow and ice won’t be there – should be interesting either way!

Sub 90

Sub 90

Posted on January 22, 2012 by Chris Baynham-Hughes

So I’ve finally done it. On an exceptionally windy day (must have been worth a good 20 minutes… ok, maybe 2 minutes :)) I officially put in a 1:28:33. After the best part of 2 months off and the last month with no running at all I’m pretty chuffed about that.

The bitter side to this is my quads and how the wheels fell off from 8 miles and were completely off by the 10 mile mark. If anything I thought I would lack the speed, but I felt pretty comfortable until 8 miles when my quads started to hurt. I’m not sure if this is because I don’t run roads or just the lack of miles in the legs, but by 10 miles I was in real pain and had shipped 1.5-2 minutes per mile on my pace.

By the time I finished I couldn’t really bend my legs to sit down. How does that work? Just 2 months ago I ran 45 miles and managed the final 3 miles in sub 7 minute miles, yet a measly 13 miles and I hardly able to move! It has certainly put the fear of God in me for the races I have coming up and correct pacing will be vital for the Hardmoor 55. More important than that is being able to get out there and get the miles in my legs. On that front things are looking up!

We’ll see tomorrow, but my ankle doesn’t seem to have swollen – I just hope I’m not speaking too soon. Of course I have had it tightly compressed and have iced it twice already, but if that’s what it takes then I’m quite happy with that.

Lesson learned from today though. Never use a pace alert! As the wheels came off and I started to struggle (about 30 people overtook me in the last 1.5 miles) all I got was a beep and I had nothing in me to turn that around. Maybe there is a mute function, but it was totally demoralising. I’d never beaten my club mate Ian on the road and despite all the people overtaking me it seemed I was going to make it. With 0.5 miles to go he passed me just as my “you’re running too slow” reminder gave its chirpy chime. There’s always next year!

Still, all in all pretty chuffed given the situation – and I have that sub 90 minute monkey off my back!

Races booked!

Races booked!

Posted on January 21, 2012 by Chris Baynham-Hughes

January and December have not only been frustrating running wise, but they have also been nerve wracking! “Why?” I hear you ask, well “postal entries” is the answer!

My original plan was to kick on from the Brecon Ultra and take on a series of long races. I’d already entered the Hardmoor 55, but I also had the extremely popular Edale Skyline and the Fellsman which just happens to be in it’s 50th year and has been put on the UK ultra running championships list for 2012. These are all set to go ahead before my BGR attempt. I’ll sneak in the Welsh 1000m after that and ultimately all this will hopefully put me in good shape for the DBR start line.

Postal entries are terrible, I’ve never trusted the postal system 100% as I’ve had letters lost on more than one occasion. There are just too many things to go wrong. I’ve spent the past couple of weeks checking the bank account to see if the cheque has gone out. In the mean time the Fellsman also opened up their online entries so I feared that there would be no places left by the time my postal entry had arrived or by the time I found out that it hadn’t arrived!

Thankfully however I have had confirmation this week that I have a place on all of the afore mentioned races. I’ve sent off the notification of intent to run the Bob Graham along with Martin Wilcock and Sam Robson (another postal thing). Now all I’ve got to do is sign up for the Brecon Ultra (another popular sell out race) to finish off my year… okay, so there is also talk of the Snowdon marathon too, but that’s by the by

Also some great news for one of my fellow ultra runners Sam as he has got into one of the toughest races in Europe, the Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc (UTMB). Living in Cambridge I think the 9,500 metres of ascent will be an interesting experience! The course profile is savage and at 166km (103 miles) the distance isn’t exactly easy going either!

The UTMB is a very popular race and it is down to a lottery to get in. First you have to qualify to show that you are capable of taking on the challenge and then it’s an application and a nervous wait. Anybody that loves mountains should check out the trailer for the event itself here. Got to say, it looks incredible and given that the atmosphere is meant to be second to none I think it has to go on the wish list! The video shows the scale of the event with enormous crowds at the start, but what it doesn’t show is the people out with the cowbells hailing you as heroes as you pass through their mountain villages along the way. Sam also writes a far more entertaining blog than I ever will you can find himhere. Congratulations Sam!

I’ll finish this post with the stats for the races I have entered:

Race Date Distance Ascent Terrain Link
Hardmoor 55 17th March 55 Miles 2700m/ 8858ft Moorland and rough trails Link
Edale Skyline 25th March 21.1 Miles 1373m / 4505ft Fells Link
The Fellsman 28/29th April 61 miles 3350m/ 11,000ft Moorland fells Link
Bob Graham Round 31st May/ 1st June 65.9 miles 8534m / 27998ft Fells Link
Welsh 1000m Peaks 9th June 19.9 miles 2440m / 8005ft Fells Link
Dragons Back 02-07th Sept 200 miles 13716m/ 45000ft Fells & rough mountain trails Link
Total 422.9 Miles 32113m/ 105358ft
The fallow month

The fallow month

Posted on January 21, 2012 by Chris Baynham-Hughes

It’s been almost a month since I last wrote and pretty much since I last ran. The ankle is still swollen and the ligament is very sore to the touch. My physio sessions have run out (I get 8 in 5 weeks) and my frustration knows no bounds as a result. I’ve taken to getting out on my awesome new cross bike which is just perfect for winter. I’ve even gone back to icing my ankle again in the evening – anything to get rid of the swelling.

It’s the Helsby 4 villages (half marathon) tomorrow which I am excited about running despite the lack of training. It’s the only road race I enter all year, and I think it’s the best one too – no bias towards my clubs race of course! I feel totally under cooked and it’s very, very windy out there, but it’ll still be a great run. As usual I have set myself three progressive goals. I tend to do this to give my competitive/ self critical brain some perspective:

  • Primary Goal: Get around without tweaking my ankle or it swelling up too much afterwards
  • Secondary Goal: Sub 90
  • Tertiary Goal: Sub 84

It’s not a slow course, but it certainly isn’t flat either and with the wind blowing as it is I doubt there will be many PBs out there tomorrow. The frustrating thing is that I believe that I’m capable of achieving all three, but like last year, where I didn’t even run it because I’d badly twisted my other ankle, my injury has got in the way. That said I’ll be very disappointed not to achieve the secondary goal as I’ve done it before in training and feel my residual fitness should pull me through, despite hardly running in two months.

I’ve not been sat on my backside for the entire time though. I’ve recently been getting out on my new bike

but I don’t have the drive to do it like I do running (although I do love this bike and it has made the early mornings not quite so hard to take). My issue with cycling is that I can’t fully relax my mind because, at the very least, every junction presents a possibility of death. 20 years ago I’d ride without a helmet or fear as people seemed to look out for bikes and would not try to get in their way, now if I’m filtering I even get drivers pulling out to push me over to the other side of the road. What does a person benefit from doing that? Maybe I’m paranoid about being on two wheels when there are cars about, but they seem to be aiming for me despite being more day-glow than the 80′s and lit up like a Christmas tree. Moth to a flame or just everybody is in such a rush that they are only looking for things that pose a risk to their safety; i.e., other cars or bigger? Either way it makes riding a stressful endeavour!

Big test tomorrow, firstly if my ankle will balloon again and secondly how much fitness I’ve lost. Can’t wait!