Saturday, October 18, 2008

Off Road Run - A Proper One!

Hurrah! A proper bog hopping, ankle turning, mountain biker overtaking off road run. It was brilliant to be back on the moors. I decided to run from Abbey Village, up to Great Hill, down to the Belmont road the through the Tockholes woods back to Abbey Village. It's one of my favourite loops and at 7 miles long enough to be challenging after my layoff but not so long as to wipe me out.

I guessed it would be boggy as hell on certain sections so decided to give the Walsh's a whirl, see how they felt on a longer run on a few surfaces. It was pretty windy when I parked up and the forecast was for it to get worse. I would be running into the wind for the first few miles so decided to concentrate on effort rather than trying to maintain a pace.

I had my running rucksack, not so much to carry water but as it was now heading into winter I use it to carry phone, gels, spare jacket, hat and gloves ( and map and compass on longer runs) in case I hurt myself and can't run. The gloves went on within five minutes of setting off due to wind chill.

The Walsh's felt great on the soft moorland singletrack, better than the Mizuno's in the really soft stuff though they were just as useless on greasy rock. They are noticeably very, very light, even when wet which was nice. I was concerned about the effect the hard pack track to the top of Great Hill would have on the studs on the soles of the Walsh's. The decision not to fight the wind paid off as I managed to run to the summit really easily - though heped in some part by the wind becoming a tail wind in the end.

I stopped briefly to take a gel at the summit shelter before setting off down the descent to the Belmont road. I was expecting this descent to be very wet and slippy and it didn't disappoint. The top section was not too bad, particularly as I stay away from the main path but when it steepened up it got a little interesting. Even with the aggressive studs on the shoes I had quite a few "skating" moments, it was hilarious.

There were some tyre tracks around, I really didn't think it was worth trying to bring a bike over this way at this time of year as it's far too wet. My thoughts were confirmed as I caught up with a group of MTBers pushing their bikes. The closer you get to the road the more the track has disintegrated into ruts and boggy puddles, its hard enough to walk or run it never mind ride it.

I breezed past them with a jaunty "On your left" then hoped I didn't fall on my backside. I was permanently over my shoes in water and mud, going through it in bike shoes would be horrible. The last 50 metres or so are a complete mess, I was taking one step forward and two steps back sometimes but making ok progress but nothing you could call actually running. I misjudged a tussock and ended up stepping into a deep puddle, I went in up to about two inches above my left knee. Luckily it was just puddle rather than bog so I just laughed at the silliness of it.

I was disappointed to get to the road, I'd had a lot of fun "running" that descent that I briefly thought about carrying on over to Darwen moor for some more of the same but that would add at least another 5 miles on and another major climb which really wasn't sensible. I continued on my planned loop.

The Mill Lane descent was very greasy and had a lot of leaf fall on it so it was hard to pick out exactly where to put my feet. The minimalism of the Walsh's was a real problem here as I felt they weren't protecting my feet at all when I slipped on the rocks. I decided to investigate a track through the woods that runs down roughly parallel (I think) to Mill Lane.

It started off promisingly enough but had lots of very low branches, a few broken off ones at eye level which could be nasty. It was also very wet and muddy and almost as slippy as Great Hill so progress was again slow. I decided it wasn't worth bothering trying to ride it, too wet and muddy and the branches too low to get under actually on the bike.

I rejoined the Mill Lane track at the very bottom and it wasn't too bad here so I probably should've just ran the rocky track carefully, it is only the top section that is really bad. I took it easy through the woods on the way back to the car. My legs were starting to feel tired here and as the path is quite firm my feet were feeling it a little too. The last tarmac section was horrible, but then I always find it horrible as its flat and rock hard and very jarring after all the nice offroad stuff.

So just over 7 miles in about 1:13 minutes, not too bad considering how slow I was descending. The studs on the Walsh's show noticeable wear, I think I will investigate some Inov-8 Mudclaws or similar as they look a little more built and save the Walsh's for racing.

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