Saturday, December 6, 2008

Run (ish)

Set off to do a longish offroad run. I decided to run from Abbey Village, up to the Tower then back down. I decided against running Great Hill as I thought it was too cold to have my feet sub merged in freezing water for long periods of time - this turned out to be a good decision. I ended up going out a bit later than I had originally planned but I don't think this was a bad thing in the end.

I expected it to be a little icy up around the tower but fully expected to be able to run ok on the lower tracks - excepting perhaps the top steep part of Mill Lane as its always wet and gets little sun, I expected that to be frozen.

The run was 8.5 miles long but I actually only ran, in the accepted sense of the word about 3.5 miles of that the rest was sliding, skipping, tip toeing, hopping, lots of walking and one arse/ice interface. I think the watch said 1hr 50 minutes or so moving by the time I'd finished but I gave up with really worrying about the time pretty early on and got the camera out. If I'd been wearing the Garmin I expect it would've stopped recording a lot I was going that slowly. Just as well it was an absolutely beautiful day!

After parking up, getting my kit on and setting off I had only just gotten past the Hare and Hounds pub when it was icy on the very first track - I reasoned it out that it probably hadn't much sun. I managed to run ok along the verge and the non-frozen bits and it was fine after about 30 metres anyway. Just before the reservoir overflow (which was running hard) I was passed by two MTBers. I was behind them and they were riding ok until the corner at Roddlesworth Res where they started riding very gingerly. More ice, this time covering pretty much the whole track but only in that corner, which is quite shaded. The water at the edge of the reservoir was frozen though. They continued on up the fireroad but I took the narrow track in the woods instead, which was absolutely fine for running.

There was a large patch of sheet ice on the track just as I started climbing, easy enough to get past on the edge and keep running but I'm glad I wasn't coming the opposite way on a bike. I wasn't expecting the ice so low down but it was clear againg for a while. I past the little fishing jetty and continued on, the track was ok for a while then it became solid ice:
It was basically snow which had melted to slush then frozen solid again. It was a couple of inches thick in places with footprint indentations in it. I managed here to run up the side of the track as it was impossible to move on the ice. When I got to the kissing gate at the end I had to hang onto it and pull myself up the steps as they were so icy.

The bottom of Mill Lane was fine, the odd patch but it was easily runnable, then it became ice again. I had the choice of slipping around on the ice or moving up through running water (baltic) at the side, eventually even that ran out and I was hanging onto trees at the side of the track to continue moving. The top section I expected to be frozen wasn't but it was streaming with freezing cold water and I could run again, for a bit.
I got to the top of the track and turned for the Slipper Lowe carpark, more ice on the main track and more verge running. The carpark had a thin layer of ice on the road as well but there was a strip of clear tarmac I was able to run. I decided I wasn't going back that way and did think for a minute that if its this bad down here what is it like at the top? I decided to find out!

I took the bridleway signposted Lyon Den to take me up onto the top of the moor. The bottom section had obviously had the sun because it was melted and I was able to run easily, pretty much all the way to the bottom of the right hand switch back where I had some ice, then some frozen solid snow. I could actually run on the snow, it was solid and I got good traction surprisingly and managed to get to the gate at the top of the climb running. It was a bit hit and miss for running all the way up to the next gate, I had to run on the track edges a lot but sometimes even they were icy. I had a choice here, I could continue straight on over to the Tower or take the usual route, down a bit then off round the rutty singletrack and back round to the tower, as I love running that singletrack I decided on that.
I sat on the bench and had a gel, it was going to take a lot longer than I planned for this run, it really was a stunning day:

I set off down the wide track for a bit, it started off ok but then changed to more frozen snow with the odd patch of ice. The snow had been well trodden in and the footstep indentations had frozen. It was really hard work to run on. I tried stepping on the flat bits of snow and it would work for a while but after a few steps I would go through the snow and flounder about. I ran at the edge of the track where I could but it was very slow progress. The footstep shapes were so frozen that I had to be careful not to turn my ankle on the edge of them.

I was slip/sliding all over the place on the way down the main track but strangely the first part of the singletrack was ok. A bit more running and general bog hopping for a change. It all changed character again when I started heading back towards the Tower.

The snow had filled up the track and had again frozen over, I gave up any pretence of running and just tried to keep moving forward. I got my feet very wet a couple of times and as I was constantly in snow and not moving very fast they were quite cold for a while. I have a feeling the track down from Great Hill would have been like this today. The closer I got to the tower the deeper the snow was and the more difficult it was to move forward.

I tried to keep stepping in ready made footprints but it didn't always work and I was worried about my ankles and knees as they were taking a battering with all this slipping and tripping. Eventually the frozen snow was so deep (stuck my foot in a frozen print and I went in over my knee) I was using hands, knees, elbows and arse to keep moving. It was hilarious and tiring - I had another gel before setting off to the tower.

More of the same disjointed moving all the way to the Tower. I got there and had a look around. The visibility was good but it was obvious all the tracks were suffering from the same problem apart from the steep drop down to Sunnyhurst Res (surprisingly). I climbed up to the tower and sat one of the benches at the bottom to decide which way I was going to go down.
I decided on the steep way, I didn't believe it would be clear all the way down but it was a lot shorter. As I moved off the tower I stepped onto a smooth sloping section of paving that lead to one of the flights of steps to get to the tower base. I hadn't realised it was frozen and as I put my right foot on it I started sliding. I had the sense to basically sit down and so slid to the steps on my arse rather than having a big dramatic fall. I ran the top section of the descent slowly, watching out for ice. It was fine until I turned the left hand corner and was confronted by:

Which was by far the worst yet! The sun doesn't really get round there (I did know that) and it was very deep and very frozen. Lots of trying to stay in footsteps and mincing down in general to the bottom. What I could see of the other track it looked much the same.
More sheet ice then across the field, I could at least run on the grass. I got to the road ready to drop down to Earnshaw Res which I expected to be fine but was again really icy. On the rougher parts of the track I managed to get some traction but halfway down I was again reduced to hanging onto the hedge to not slip. I ran along the grass at the side of the road but then stopped just before heading up the steep cobbles of Dean Lane. I've never seen the reservoir so still, it was like the proverbial mill pond - did I mention it was a beautiful day:

Again to confound me the really steep cobbly track was clear (but very wet and going to freezed hard) so I actually managed to run most of it but then the rest of it was a bit icy. There was actually a good line to run for most of it but it didn't stop the huge group of pensioner ramblers from thinking they owned the entire track and getting miffed when I didn't seem to want to run on the ice.

I decided to do the fence track which wasn't actually frozen but complete slop, the novelty was refreshing and I ran most of it. Then I just ran down the fireroad back to the car which was my longest spell of uninterrupted running so far!
The sun was really dropping by the time I got back to the car and its all going to freeze hard again - I won't be bringing my bike round here tomorrow!
There were some nice ice patterns on the last res, highlighted by the dropping sun:

That was a bit long! Did I mention it was a beautiful day ?


  1. Some great photos, hard work but worth it by the sounds of things.

  2. What a great write-up! Saturday was a great day, I know what you mean about the ice though, that was my ride on saturday!!

  3. i really like the last photo