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Windy Gyle Fell Race Plus Extra Trot

Windy Gyle Trot

It’s 18th June and the temperature is the highest recorded of the year so far. Blue skies above and very little wind in the valley mean that the meeting point just north of Barrowburn in the Coquet Valley was particularly warm. Today I’m out with North of Tyne Mountain Rescue covering the Windy Gyle Fell Race. Organised by Phil Green and his crew from Heaton Harriers, it could be viewed as a special kind of hot weather torture on this occassion. A proper fell race with rugged hills and no nonsense running.

Windy Gyle Fell Race

Having come back to vague fitness I thought it would be a good idea to sweep run and had friend Paul Eggleston Brown join me for the loop. Soon enough the cars arrived and there was very little in the way of nervous pre-run chatter. That tells me that everyone here is pretty capable and this 8 mile course will be despatched nice and quickly. Some familiar faces are in the crowd with Mr Speedy himself John Butters alongside Richard Garland and others.

10:30 rolled around and Phil’s gun was shooting blanks as legs started pumping off to the first hill. Eventually the gun gives a crack and surprises some of the people towards the back of the grid. Trooping off down the road we were soon heading on to dirt tracks as we hooked up with the Border County Ride heading north towards Murder Cleugh. If you thought I did evil starts then I have nothing on Phil Green! This section is midway in the Breamish Behemoth and as any rider will tell you it’s an absolute leg burner.

Near the top of this came the first retiree with a strained calf muscle. He now had the joy of sitting in the sun and watching proceedings. Meanwhile we’d caught up with a lady who was feeling a bit wiped out but was cajoled into continuing by her friends. Having climbed the first super steep hill it would have been rude not to continue so she pressed on. Soon we reached Kev and co at checkpoint 1, opened a few gates and hit the second rather nasty hill of the day.

We’d slowed to a walk here and intercepted a runner coming back the other way who was feeling a bit tired. He was soon talked back into it and soon enough he set off up to the summit with renewed vigour. Once we’d all reached the summit of Windy Gyle it was effectively all down hill from there. However, getting to that summt is a bit of a pain as the steep gradient is held for a solid 300m and lactic acid is building up. Eventually it’s panoramic views in all directions as the high pressure allows for the famous views. It’s not hard to see who I include this spot is so many events.

After a brief chat with Rachel, Mark and his daughter it was time to get going. The fact that they were up on this high summit in just t-shirts and shorts told you everything you needed to know about the weather. Now the ladies we had been walking with had seen the descent and were off running again. Paul and I stopped to chat to a few Pennine Way walkers who were out in force and having a great time. Crossing over to The Street we paused to chat with Stef and co manning checkpoint 3 before heading off down to Slymefoot.

To get there the track is essentially downhill but with a few little undulations thrown in to keep people on their toes. To tired legs these undulations are like mountains and some spare water was dished out to keep people going. Psychology is a wonderful thing though and with the final rise conquoured the finish could clearly be seen and the runners legs sprung into action. The stifling heat brought out the sweat and by the time we reached the team Land Rover the race was run and everyone accounted for. £305 was raised and duly donated to North of Tyne – many thanks Phil and co for their selfless efforts. Plenty of runners took the chance to cool off in the river and that was noted for later.

Not satisfied with the Windy Gyle Fell race the aim was always to head out for another trot to get the miles in. As everyone headed off Paul and I plotted a route which incorporated some of the best tracks in the area. We’d jog down the road, cross over the river at Wedders Leap and then circuvent the massive bulk of Shillhope Law using the sheep track opposite the road. This tight little track needs concentration as it weaves in and out of ferns, long grass and plenty of decent sized rocks and escarpments. We passed a couple of good swimming points and took the opportunity to stick our hats in the water and get cooled off a bit.

shillhope circular

We joined the road south of Bygate and pressed on to Shillmoor farm. Our options were up and over Shillhope Law or keep it steady up Usway Burn. Given that the Usway Burn is one of the greatest little sweeping valleys in the Cheviots it was an easy choice. After a quick trot it was clear Paul was feeling the heat and the strain of running so it was time to cool down. About 50m short of the first bridge a lively natural spa was located and soon we’d dunked ourselves in it. The water was cool but in no way cold and I could have stayed there for a long time. The water crashed in off the rocks and created a natural bubble bath which revitalised the soul and the soles.

Duely rested it was time to press on. The sun dried us out in about ten minutes and given that this track is one huge gradual ascent it would be rude not to run most of it and only walk when needed. Rounding Battlesheil the track turned to grass and we closed in and crossed the section with a nice drop down to the left. We came across two mountain bikers heading the other way and reminded me of why this is in the Breamish Behemoth. I watched closely as they came unstuck at that one tricky off camber rock drop whihc ALWAYS catches me out. It’s reassuring to know that others struggle with it as well.

Into the trees and some light relief from the sun. Trees give atmosphere as they work the light, splitting its rays and making them dance around on the floor. A small breeze kept any midges at bay and before long we’d guided ourselves through the last chunks of rock sprawling across the path and popped out at the white house of Fairhaugh. As witnessed at the last Clennell Colossus, there’s some serious forestry operations going on here at present. A sign of a constantly evolving landscape and a brief look back at what this place used to look like before the land was aquired for trees.

We strolled up to the Fairhaugh gate that sits not too far from Kyloe Shin. A now familiar track leading down to The Deer Hut and Barrowburn beyond unfolded. My body was feeling strong so we’d agreed to finish this at our own pace and I set off running down the hill. Sheep made a deliberate effort to run down the hill and trip me up instead of just stepping off the side of the track. I’m pretty sure they get training for this. After slipping through the accommodation I stopped for an intellectual chat with the Barrowburn pigs. Passers by clearly were not as fluent as I in the art of snorting and cast some questioning glances.

A short jog up the road back to the car and a wait for Paul to return. As soon as he showed up we joined three others having a dip in the river and cooled down. Like the old people we are becoming, we lamented the fact that kids should do more of this and less staring at screens. That was a perfect finish to a lovely 17 miles of running. My feet were blistered but then again they always are. A chilled can of coke from Clennell Hall filled our stomachs and then we headed off back to home having filled our heads with more great Cheviot memories.

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Skye Trail Ultra 2017

“I’m only going as far as Portree.”

Oh how those words would come back at me. I had in fact decided that going as far as Portree would be my limit and with good reason. Not long after the 2016 Skye Trail Ultra I came down with quinsy that literally knocked me off my feet. The following 11 months were a series of bad respiritory related illnesses including some rather serious stuff that involved hospital time. A month prior to the Skye Trail Ultra and I could barely walk up the stairs without being knackered.

And then it happened. A tiny chink of recovery and my body started to come back to life. My sights were shifted from just marshaling at Skye to doing the first section and then marshaling. The Duntulm to Portree section is nails so even to do this I set about training like a madman without over doing it. Three weeks of pretty much back to back training sessions followed by a week off before the trip.

Let’s just review what it’s all about.  69 miles (more like 74), lots and lots of climbing and seemingly all in the first 22 miles, self navigated ultra on remote Skye.

Somewhere deep down there must have been a hope that my body could go further because I dutifully packed food for all the checkpoints. Spare socks (a must), spare t-shirt (they all got stinky) and boat loads of food. Ultras really are just one long picnic. The car was fully loaded and with child care arrangements made I looked forward to the journey north of the border.

I’d forgotten just how far away Skye bloody is! Bad traffic on the A9 slowed things further and eventually after 8 hours of solid driving I pulled up at Broadford hotel just in time. The delightful Jeff Smith was briefing runners on the course and lots of keenly interested faces looked on. Little phrases I remembered from last year were picked out such as “you might die here” and “don’t fall off the 500 foot cliff”. All the little titbits you need to know :-)

After a catch up with Jeff, Patricia, Fiona and her sister it was time to try and get some sleep. Like many people, my mind works overtime the night before a big event. Crossing to the other side of the island I parked at the inlet near Torrin alongside a few other campers. The group next to me were on the beers and chatting all night. The thought of shoving one of those bottles up their jacksie to shut them up did go through my mind. At some time around 11:30pm, under the shadow of Bla Bhienn, I got to sleep.

Beep beep. Beep beep. 1:30am and the alarm is going off. The mind is not working as I’m wondering what I’m doing here sleeping in the back of my car. Oh yeah, a little run down Skye. Whipping on the shorts and kit for the day I headed back to the village hall to be met by similarly tired faces. A huge drive followed by next to no sleep and then straight into a nearly 3 hour coach trip to Duntulm to begin a 74 mile run back to Broadford. Yeah…sleep will be an issue.

The runners on the way up were all in good spirits and they all looked in very good shape. The darkness was beginning to lift and all the talk was about the weather changing later in the day. The info signs on the way in reminded us of the amber weather warning for the area. However, at 5am in the morning in northern Skye the air was clear and the Hebrides were seen clear as day just over the water. A customary count from Jeff and then we were off and on our way.

Due to lack of fitness I’d preformed a planin my head. It was called: slow. As the rest of the pack headed off into the distance I turned my own wick down to minimum with a slow jog and then set off after them. Luckily two ladies had exactly the same idea and I settled just being in front of them. The start is lovely. Jog along a road, hook a right and then Jeff points you across a marsh filled field towards the first climb of the day. The boggy ground reminded me of home in the Cheviots so no great shakes. It was here I met a scouser who termed the phrase “my bum is pulling tongues” when we mentioned we both needed the toilet. Classic.

Skye Trail Ultra

A steady walk up Sron Vourlin reminded meof when I saw an eagle here last year. 12 months ago I was one of the first up here. This year I’m one of the last. Never mind, all part of the plan. A bit further along the top and it was time to drop down into the Quirang and get past The Needle. If Carlsberg did stunning starts to ultras then this would be it. By the time we popped out at the road to see the marshals I’ll admit to feeling completely shattered and could not envisage even getting to Portree.

Skye Trail ultra

What’s next? Oh yeah the Trotternish Ridge. I LOVE it! It’s brutal and drains the legs but it’s also stunning, atmospheric and on days like this there are stunning views. Patricia’s Rassay seemed like it was in touching distance. Looking back there were mighty cliff faces, looking forward it was just the same. The ridge is like one mad practical joke. Take a series of huge mountains, let the runner be able to see the next one but then tell them you need to go really far down before you get to go up again. And repeat but make the hills bigger each and every time until finally you’re faced with The Storr.

In keeping with the strategy I zig-zagged my way up the Storr at walking pace, neevr trying to have my heart beating out my chest. After bumping in to Neil MacRitchie and another marshal the summit reared into view along with a group of walkers who must have though “what the feck are you doing?”. After taking 5 at the top I set off towards Ben Dearg only to bump into another runner at the bottom who ha dbeen searching for water. His girlfriend is an Asian lass called Emma but I can’t recall his. We had both a lusting for plain water after the sickly taste of energy drinks in the hot sun. I left his contemplating his life choices before setting off.

Skye Trail ultra

Ben Dearg is a place of fear from last year. In 2016 I didn’t traverse along enough and headed up the shale covered side only to end up semi crag fast as it was so steep and loose. This year I could see the guy in front of me taking a straight line up the side, teetering above the sheer drop on the left whilst standing on shale that could give way at any point. I sat with my heart in my mouth and waited until he was safely at the top before continuing around the long (but safe) way.

I’d actually mentally blocked the next bit. It must have been so insufferable last time that my mind went into complete denial. 3 miles of, no other way to put it, shite. Ferns, clumps of long grass and bog do their best to suck you permanently into the peat bogs of the area. Eventually I just set a course for where I knew it would end and straight lined it. Popping out on to the road resulted in a minor celebration and a bit of a dance.

Running down and through Portree is surreal. You’re on this mad endurance test with sweat coming out of every oriface and the place is packed with tourists wandering this way and that. I have come to the conclusion that Chinese tourists simply have no concept of spacial awareness as I nearly ran several over. Out the other side and on to the checkpoint. The first leg had been done in extreme heat but eventually the temperature cooled when I hit the checkpoint. The reception was friendly as usual and after an assessment of my fitness I decided to continue to Slig to recce the route for next year. My legs were OK and a slow shuffle would get my round the headland no problem I reckoned.

The rain started to spit at I wandered through the tidal area onto a long road section. In the distance was another runner called Ruiridh (will call him Big R from now on) who little would I know it would play a big part in the rest of the journey. I caught him at a junction before Peinachorrain and we chatted for a while. He was young but looked fit and had a good sense of humour. Having already told him I was pulling out at Slig he went on ahead.

Turning the corner at the headland and seeing Slig was both a joy and a curse. My ultimate phsychological battle is when you can see your objective but it never seems to get any closer! There’s a spot on the West Highland Way after Kinlochleven just like it. Negative thoughts pervade my mind and it’s hard to snap out of it. By the time I hit to campsite next to Slig I’d caught big R again and we arrived together. He looked knackered but determined to press on. I don’t know if it was him looking so knackered that gave me heart or if I was worried about him doing a night section with some dangerous bits in near Elgol. Whatever it was, I changed my mind and pressed on.

The Slig Glen is stunning. There’s no other way to describe it. A solid track takes you to places that only your feet can get you. Towering mountains on both sies and though the gaps you can make out the cuillins standing imperiously just out of reach. Big R and I discussed the need to get a shift on through the glen so that we’d hit the scary stuff before Elgol with some light. This we did and the stretch after Camasunary was some of the scariest stuff I’ve done. I don’t have a head for heights and this stretch involved a steep hill on your left, fresh air and a huge drop on your right and a tiny sheep track. Ducking in and out of trees I was actually delighted to get down to that bloody shore and start the final bit to Elgol. A small bit of navigating and we were at the checkpoint.

I actually remember manning this checkpoint with Karen last year after I’d pulled out with a dodgy knee. She was an absolute superstar and whilst big R took on several strong coffees I resupplied my food, socks and batteries. Blisters were becoming an issue and several plasters were applied. Wierdly my body was fellng stronger now than it did at the start and the decision had been made to press on to the end. With some final advice from Karen the pair of us set out into the night.

This is where it all slowed down. A walk up and past the transmission tower was easy and soon we had hit the off road sections past Glasnikile and Drinan. The rain started getting heavier and the wind was picking up. Every time we stopped a swarm of bastard bloody sucking medges would descend on us. Unfortunatey this was also the time when big R’s body was just about shutting down. Stops were frequent, his leg and hip causing massive pain and on more than one occassion he was fast asleep in the middle of the road in the dead on night in the pouring rain. Becoming even more concerned for him, encouragement was needed to get to the final checkpoint.

A full crew awaited us, guided in by a flashing light and a lovely warm campervan. Big R fell asleep as soon as he sat down and stayed that way for 25 minutes. I ate, drank a lovely hot coffee and restocked for the final leg. The marshals talked big R into doing the final section and so it was that we and our new friend Andy the sweep guided us in. Predictably it turned into a long, slow walk but it did give plenty of time to chat with Andy who is incredibly knowledgable about the area. It’s history and geogrpahy were well covered.

Boreraig would have been interesting to find in the dark but otherwise navigation was simple as the track led all the way back to Broadford. Big R dragged his knackered, bruised and battered body all the way to the finish and deserved massive respect for doing so. For myself it was a pleasure finishing the run but there was a little bit of me wanting to put the record straight for taking so long. If all things go well and the I stay healthy then I’ll be back to do exactly that next year.

In summary the Skye Trail Ultra is just amazing. The views are stunning and if you can just hang on in after the first section over the Trotternish Ridge then you have a cracking chance of completing the whole thing. Given the slow strategy I had hardly seen anyone all day other then big R and the marshals. The scenery is just fantastic and the super enthusiastic marshals help you in every which way they can. I’d recommend it to anyone who wants a proepr challenge in their life.

Any tips? If you can navigate then you don’t really need to do a recce. I never felt lost once. Take boat loads of food and eat as often as you can. Have a plan at the start and stick to it – pacing is important so don’t get drawn into the speed of the person in front. Take spare socks and blister kit – my feet were wrecked by the end. Plan to sleep somewhere local as you really don’t want to try and drive home afterwards.

Tahnks again to Jeff and all the team for seeing me through the full distance. After all, I only wanted to go to Portree.

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Clennell Colossus 2017 – Oof That Hurt!

Rain rain go away. The clennell colossus of 2017 would turn out to be a damp affair both in the setting up and the action on the day. Some hardy riders turned up and made the magic happen at the beautiful Clennell Hall Country House.

Casting our memories back 12 months the conditions in 2016 were just horrendous. Never in June I have seen clouds all the day down in the valley with 10 metre visibility for just about the entire day. Fingers, legs various other body parts were all crossed hoping the same didn’t happen this year. Setting up the course in the preceeding 3 days showed exactly what the Cheviots are all about. Wednesday: clear and sunny. Thursday: torrential rain. Friday: couldn’t make it’s mind up if it wanted to rain or have sun. In all those days we bumped into precisely no-one, not a single other person out in the hills!

Friday became a mad rush of collecting t-shirts, numbers, beers and various other stuff then get back and finish setting up the marquee. By 10pm all was just about in place and many folk had arrived to take advantage of the free camping. The pub got a healthy number of people through the doors and the smell of bbq was wafting through the air. Mmmmm meat. Everyone fell asleep to the pitter patter of rain.

Saturday morning and the alarm resonates through my skull at 5am with yet another day with a ridiculously early start. What sounded like heavy rain was drumming down against the canvas of our tent. Oh joy. With a full day on a quad bike coming up I could expect to get severely damp. Planning for this several layers were piled on. Stepping outside the precipitation was not as bad as it sounded which was a bonus.

Final prep now went into play with water sorted, sound system turned on, numbers written out (100 were missing!) and so on. Some super keen cyclist turned up just aftr 6am and got signed up. Debby Mortimore, Joanne Richardson and Allison Kemp sorted people out. I wondered if they just went straight back to bed after that. Some serious z’s were being kicked out in the tents as the snoring could be heard in the marquee. At least I hope it was snoring and not someone trying to choke a pig.

Clearly mountain bikers know how to time their arrival. Between 6am and 7am there was next to no-one pickingup their nnumbers. When the clock ticked 7am the cars started flowing down the road and the joy of parking began. Clipping was under way at the farm so the improvised car park was the red road near the farm using pretty much every available bit of space going. It was good to see some familiar faces on the scene but not good when they were telling me tales of how bad the weather was just 20 miles away and the wind was blowing in this direction. Gulp.

Sign-in came to an end and the marshals headed off out into position. Some were just down the road and others were off to the far end of nowhere for the day. The quad bike got fired into life and put-putted to the car park. The safety briefing was very short and then the final ten minute wait just seemed to drag on for ages. Nervous anticipation was palpable in the air but whether that was from us or the riders I’m not sure. 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 and they’re off!

The bikes were all led off by the quad. There were a few reaons for this. If people didn’t get the last second change to the gpx file they may have wandered off to the side. Secondly, the route signing was being checked as we went. Lastly, there was a major medical incident last year early doors and we were determined to keep a close eye on the early stages.

The riders soon stretched out on the red forest track and became a long snake slithering its way up the valley. After this nice and gentle warm up everyone was met by Debby Mortimore holding open the first gate. She had the joy of seeing people look left to the hill they were about to climb and see the blood drain out of their faces. The rocky beginning caught a few out but soon enough people were in the rythm and grinding away up the hillside. Heart rates would have rocketed here and eventually when everyone reached the top they had to circulate around the edge of a grassy field starting with some nice singletrack overlooking Clennell Hall.

Clennell Colossus

Soon the route hooked up with the ancient drovers road of Clennell Street. It’s grassy surface made that bit more hard-going by the rain that had been falling in the previous days. In fact it was up here were the rain had wind assistance and hit the riders hard on the exposed fells. I am guessing some people thought they were in for very long days at this point. Soon enough the peleton reached the first split point. Paul Kemp and the paramedic waited for them in the Land Cruiser. The short route carried on up Clennell Street whilst the long route carried off into a grassy abyss over The Knocks and swooping down a fast and smooth descent down to a glorious singletrack traverse to Shillmoor.

I took up position high on the hills above and watched as the pace slowed whilst cracked grinded away up the Copper Snouth track, hauling themselves once again up to Clennell Street. Eventually these long riders would regain the right track and hook up with the short short route. This union would be temporary as everyone crawled up a short bank to be met by George Wilson who one again split the pack. The short rout carried on straight to the first checkpoint whereas the long route had to tackle the joys of Kidland forest first.

The long route got to enjoy a fast, 2 mile long forest track that took them all the way to the forest valley once more. A few people went a bit off piste here as they followed a walking route set out by the Mountain Rescue event. Luckily it was a small diversion as they could see other riders on the right track and soon got back on it. That road is one where people regularly hit 40mph+ but then finishes with a tasty sharp left turn which I’m hoping caught no-one out.

Now the foresttrack led the riders into the depths of Kidland forest. A place used for harvesting and not often visited it’s trees watch over people as they glide through. Ignoring the Whiteburnshank turning everyone had to go a little further until they hit the water stop at the foot of the Milkhope climb. Helen Kemp and Chris Ford topped up supplies and then gave everyone prophecies of doom about the fortcoming hill. Lowest gear would have been engaged, look down at front wheel and just keep pressing down on the pedals!

I love the view as the top of the Milkhope climb is reached. The trees give way to more far off vistas, other riders behind can be seen far below and the old farmstead of Milkhope is tucked into the trees behind you, hold untold stories of the past. Now that the riders were higher up they could make good progress on the hard packed ground that logging trucks use. A few miles into this increased pace they were met with a little fun section that took them off up the side of a hill, had to manage some technical riding between tree stumps and then came back down only to be faced with an arrow pointing into some tyre tracks. This old logging machinery track undulated whilst going parrallel to the forest track, occasionally splattering people with some deep muddy ruts. I can only imagine the inner joy as everyone popped out back onto the solid red track at the end.

There was a lot of red track action to follow with a seriously fast descent followed by switch backs getting back up onto th ehigh ground. It was around this time that the cloud dropped further as the riders went high up near the summit of Bloodybush some 2 or 3 miles before the checkpoint. Eventually all the riders wouldhaul themselves up to the tent pitched out on the far end of nowhere that was the checkpoint. Yvonne Kemp and Eileen Wilson occupied this spot alongside a couple of mountain rescue people. This veritable cake emporium allowed people to take stock of the situation, refuel and then get back on it.

The tent checkpoint was the spot where the long and the short hooked up once more. By this time the short riders were well off into the distance. Michael Lumb set off after them like a whippet, smiling all the way. Peter Squires was hot on his heels but his ride soon came to an end after two punctures dropped his pace and he waited for wife Jane so he could annoy her for the rest of the ride.

Both routes headed north from the checkpoint. Rumbling through the last of Kidland they soon popped out high above Usway Burn. This high speed, sweeping drop down into the valley takes nerver to do quickly with it’s off camber corners and blind summits. I spotted a lot of people taking the more sensible approach witha bit of brake action. Hopping over the bridge at the bottom they were greeted by a wicked little bank to get to Jim Imber at the final split point of the day. The short route hooked left and towards Trows whilst the long climbed up and onwards to Uswayford Forest.

Uswayford forest is a pretty special place in its own right. Not often visited by people, this is one of the most remote of the already remote Cheviot locations. Swaying trees tower high on either side and the road goes upwards. A right turn hooks you up with a glorious cross country ride on Salters Road through Davidsons Linn. A twisting track leads you down to a bridge and then a nasty tight switchback of a corner is covered with larger stones and desperately tries to get your foot down. Once through all of this there is a massive ride back to Salters Road entrance, all in the shadow of Cairn Hill and Cheviot staring down at the riders.

Popping out of the Uswayford Forest everyone would have been able to clearly see the summit of Windy Gyle in the distance. Instead of heading directly for this the course turned left and took up the route of Clennell street south on a grassy and lumpy track. Strewn with puddles, some deep ones at that, riders were forced to pay attention. Eventually the grassy madness ended at Hazely Law with a rough and rocky descent back to the main junction with Jim and rejoined the short route heading down towards Trows.

Clennell Colossus

It was around early afternoon that the rain decided it would play the game and abate. Views opened up and through the course of the afternoon the cloud level lifted. I did give a chuckle that it didn’t lift enough to clear the tops as Alan Wilson and Dave Smalls were stuck on summits all day and could see precisely nothing!

Trows to Windy Gyle. I’m pretty sure everyone would have read about this before the event and those who had not done it before had a certain amount of trepidation. Turning at the ford rider were faced with a gate then just a steep hill navigating the first bulky hill of the day. If your legs survived that then things leveled off somewhat but unfortunately the real task in hand was coming closer and looming ever larger. The final push up to the summit of Windy Gyle must surely have been just that – a push. This requires dry conditions and strong legs to clear it and the dry conditions were certainly not present on this day. At the top Alan Wilson was hiding in the cairn out of the wind waiting for you. His non-existent views for the day did get better for the final ten minutes of his stay :-)

Now all the riders had figured out why it’s called Windy Gyle. Strong gusts blew in across the ridge and several riders were blown clean off their bikes as they headed across to The Street. Once on this return route the wind was still so hard that many people had to ride DOWN into it. As the altitude dropped so did the wind and by the time people had reached the road down to Barrowburn they looked a bit like those cartoon characters with wide eyes and hair on end following an electric shock.

Kathryn and Scott are new farmers at Barrowbrun and due to them living in the house they decided not to carry on the cafe there. However, they decided to support the event and get in a shed load of pasties, sausage rolls, crisps and drinks. The first few fast riders flew straight through but the vast bulk stopped for a good feed and reassessment of life choices. Marshals Brian Kemp and Oliver kept everyone going and helped people if needed. All of those who purchased stuff you have directly helped a farming family in this remote Coquet valley and I thank you for that.

2 big climbs left. No-one would believe it but off they went anyway. Passing serenely by the pigs and beside The Deer Hut and Camping Barn there was a little drop which only aided the severity of the climb up to the Fairhaugh gate. A steep and relentless grassy track that eventually levels off near the top and opens up another fantastic vista in the National Park. Through a snall gate and then clamber over the forestry tracks before ploughing down to the small the bridge behind the white building of Fairhaugh. Paul Eggleston Brown awaited riders to point them in the right direction.

The “right direct” resulted in a punishing final climb of the day. Riding out of Fairhaugh is a solid forest track which is good for traction. Converse to thsi is th gradient which is like being repeatedly whacked in the face with a salmon until eventually gravity wins and a push is the best option. With legs well and truly shot the riders turned right at the top and made their way back to the tent checkpoint. No matter how many times people were told that “it’s all level or down for the next 4 miles” absolutely no-one believed it! For those that arrived here in the later afternoon it became bathed in glorious sunshine with views far off along the border ridge. The kind of views where you could sit and watch for hours and the sun and clouds dance over the landscape.

The return journey from the checkpoint really was being a bit too kind. A nice solid track followed by some small ascents but overall riders were going further and further down into the valley back to Clennell. A final reveral of the initial grassy field was rewarded with a super fast drop into the Alwin valley and then a gently roll back to Clennell Hall. Job done.

Crossing the line back into the marquee numbers were logged for the timing and then bikes were ceremoniously thrown to the floor as riders collapsed from the joy of it all being over. A lovely technical t-shirt, free beer and a chewy bar were reward for a long day in the saddle. Many people at meals in the hotel or sat round in the beer garden drinking beer as the sun shone down. It was great to see so many people investing in the local economy and at the end of the day these kind of places are absolutely dependent upon your generorsity.

At around 8pm the last riders crawled in, beaming smiles on their faces but legs well and truly beaten to a pulp. Feedback from all riders seems very positive and hopefully everyone will leave with great memories of a hard day out in the Cheviots. You’ve benefited the local economy and apart from one knackered shoulder you all came back intact. Thanks to everyone for turning up and to all the marshals who made the event happen. See you agan soon.

Pedalling Squares MOD Rocker Results

Here are some recorded times in alphabetical order.  Some times are missing, mainly due to people pulling out but also because some people didn’t get their time recorded on the summit as they went flying past my sister before she could grab the number.  If you need any alterations feel free to get in touch.

Start Chew Green Summit Split time Finish Overall time
1 Stan Allan 08:59:00 10:26:00 01:27:00 02:55:00 05:56:00
2 Ben Amaira 09:07:00 10:33:00 01:26:00 03:19:00 06:12:00
3 Geoff Anderson 08:51:00 10:40:00 01:49:00 03:36:00 06:45:00
4 Melanie Annable 09:01:00 10:14:00 01:13:00 02:30:00 05:29:00
5 Chris Annable 09:01:00 01:28:00 04:27:00
6 Stephen Armstrong 08:59:00 10:16:00 01:17:00 02:22:00 05:23:00
7 Thomas Baines 09:17:00 10:39:00 01:22:00 03:22:00 06:05:00
8 Wayne Baker 08:48:00 10:13:00 01:25:00 02:22:00 05:34:00
9 Mark Barr 09:10:00 10:20:00 01:10:00 03:18:00 06:08:00
10 John Stewart Beaty 09:12:00 09:59:00 00:47:00 03:13:00 06:01:00
11 Brian Bellamy 09:05:00 10:25:00 01:20:00 02:42:00 05:37:00
12 Paul Beveridge 09:02:00 10:26:00 01:24:00 02:59:00 05:57:00
13 Steven Birbeck 08:55:00 10:01:00 01:06:00 01:25:00 04:30:00
14 Graham Biscoe 09:05:00 10:29:00 01:24:00 02:53:00 05:48:00
15 Dominic Blythe 08:54:00 09:56:00 01:02:00
16 Dieter Booth
17 keith BOYLAN 09:12:00 10:43:00 01:31:00
18 Ailsa Bradshaw 09:17:00 10:43:00 01:26:00 03:18:00 06:01:00
19 David Bradshaw 09:17:00 10:43:00 01:26:00 03:18:00 06:01:00
20 Jack Bradshaw 09:17:00 10:33:00 01:16:00 02:57:00 05:40:00
21 Carl Brammer 09:17:00 10:39:00 01:22:00 03:22:00 06:05:00
22 Geoff Brindle 08:57:00 10:30:00 01:33:00 03:50:00 06:53:00
23 Martin Brooks 08:54:00 10:05:00 01:11:00 02:07:00 05:13:00
24 David Brown 09:02:00 10:42:00 01:40:00
25 Jim Bumby 08:52:00 10:22:00 01:30:00 02:57:00 06:05:00
26 Brian Burgh 08:50:00 10:56:00 02:06:00 05:25:00 08:35:00
27 Gavin Burton 08:59:00 10:42:00 01:43:00
28 Gary Byers 08:54:00 10:00:00 01:06:00 01:52:00 04:58:00
29 William Calder 09:17:00 10:33:00 01:16:00 02:57:00 05:40:00
30 Christopher Campin 09:10:00 10:26:00 01:16:00 02:50:00 05:40:00
31 Paul Carr 10:09:00 10:09:00 02:56:00 14:56:00
32 Liam Carr 08:55:00 10:01:00 01:06:00 02:04:00 05:09:00
191 Patrick Carr 08:57:00 10:11:00 01:14:00 02:53:00 05:56:00
33 Jeff Catling 08:48:00 10:00:00 01:12:00 01:30:00 04:42:00
34 Chris Chambers 09:05:00 10:55:00 01:50:00 03:52:00 06:47:00
35 Damian Chandler
36 Jonathan Chapman 08:59:00 10:24:00 01:25:00 03:36:00 06:37:00
37 Peter Chipchase 08:55:00 10:24:00 01:29:00 03:36:00 06:41:00
38 michael clark 09:04:00 10:10:00 01:06:00 01:24:00 04:20:00
39 Timothy Clark 09:02:00 10:31:00 01:29:00 03:44:00 06:42:00
40 Peter Close 08:59:00 10:37:00 01:38:00 04:14:00 07:15:00
41 Paul Cook 08:57:00 10:30:00 01:33:00 03:50:00 06:53:00
193 Chris Craig 08:50:00 10:10:00 01:20:00 01:40:00 04:50:00
43 Graham Crammond
44 Jan Dabrowski
45 Craig Deacon 09:04:00 10:02:00 00:58:00 01:34:00 04:30:00
46 John Dennis
47 Andrew Dickson 09:10:00 10:25:00 01:15:00 02:00:00 04:50:00
48 Steven Dixon 09:04:00 10:24:00 01:20:00 03:17:00 06:13:00
49 Robert Djaelani 09:12:00 10:20:00 01:08:00 02:30:00 05:18:00
50 Steve Dodd 09:02:00 10:34:00 01:32:00 01:40:00 04:38:00
51 Carolyn Dougherty
52 Luke Driscoll 08:50:00 10:17:00 01:27:00 02:28:00 05:38:00
188 Craig Ducat 09:02:00 10:04:00 01:02:00 01:17:00 04:15:00
53 Barry Eastham 09:09:00 10:23:00 01:14:00 02:08:00 04:59:00
54 Neil Faulder 09:01:00 10:37:00 01:36:00 04:14:00 07:13:00
55 Keith Fawcett 08:48:00 10:13:00 01:25:00 02:20:00 05:32:00
56 Paul (Michael) Fiddes (Simmons) 08:48:00 10:13:00 01:25:00 02:22:00 05:34:00
57 Gary Fletcher 08:59:00 10:26:00 01:27:00 03:36:00 06:37:00
58 Samantha Fletcher 09:09:00 10:44:00 01:35:00 03:50:00 06:41:00
59 John Forster 09:01:00 10:12:00 01:11:00 02:16:00 05:15:00
60 David Fulton 09:09:00 10:23:00 01:14:00 02:08:00 04:59:00
198 Chris Gillespie 09:55:00 11:47:00 01:52:00
192 Andrew Gordon 09:12:00 10:20:00 01:08:00 02:26:00 05:14:00
61 Mark Graham 09:01:00 10:12:00 01:11:00 02:15:00 05:14:00
62 Martin Graham 09:04:00 10:15:00 01:11:00 01:36:00 04:32:00
63 Stephen Graham
64 Eddie Halstead 08:59:00 10:13:00 01:14:00 01:33:00 04:34:00
65 Richard Hardy 09:07:00 10:29:00 01:22:00 03:34:00 06:27:00
66 Rob Harker
67 Sheena Harrison 09:09:00 10:28:00 01:19:00 02:53:00 05:44:00
68 Neil Harrison 09:10:00 10:26:00 01:16:00 02:50:00 05:40:00
69 David Harrison 08:50:00 10:01:00 01:11:00 02:27:00 05:37:00
196 James Harrison 09:55:00 11:47:00 01:52:00
70 Andy Haw 09:01:00 10:14:00 01:13:00 02:30:00 05:29:00
71 Thomas Hayes
72 Derek Henderson 09:02:00 10:26:00 01:24:00 02:59:00 05:57:00
73 Barry Herron 08:55:00 10:12:00 01:17:00 02:17:00 05:22:00
74 Michael Hill 09:00:00 10:06:00 01:06:00 02:56:00 05:56:00
75 Simon Hilton
76 stu hindmarsh 08:48:00 10:00:00 01:12:00 01:30:00 04:42:00
77 John Hogg 08:52:00 10:26:00 01:34:00 02:19:00 05:27:00
78 Paul Hogg 08:48:00 10:13:00 01:25:00 02:22:00 05:34:00
79 Anita Hok
80 Abby Holder 08:54:00 10:08:00 01:14:00 02:38:00 05:44:00
81 Ben Holmes 08:54:00 10:06:00 01:12:00 01:54:00 05:00:00
82 Graeme Hood 08:55:00 10:25:00 01:30:00 03:36:00 06:41:00
83 Steve Hope 09:10:00 10:15:00 01:05:00 01:30:00 04:20:00
84 Paul Iredale 08:54:00 10:24:00 01:30:00 02:39:00 05:45:00
85 Claire Jackson 09:01:00 10:14:00 01:13:00 02:30:00 05:29:00
189 Brendon Jackson 09:01:00 10:14:00 01:13:00 02:30:00 05:29:00
86 Barry James 09:02:00 10:26:00 01:24:00 02:55:00 05:53:00
87 Lee John 08:59:00 10:12:00 01:13:00 01:52:00 04:53:00
88 Gareth Kane 08:50:00 10:03:00 01:13:00 01:58:00 05:08:00
89 David Kaye 09:12:00 10:43:00 01:31:00
90 Michael Kebell 08:57:00 01:24:00 04:27:00
91 Steve Keightley 08:57:00 10:22:00 01:25:00 03:36:00 06:39:00
92 Steven Kyffin 09:12:00 10:20:00 01:08:00 02:26:00 05:14:00
93 Richard Laycock 09:07:00 10:30:00 01:23:00 03:10:00 06:03:00
94 Joseph Leiserach 08:52:00
95 Dragan Lekic 09:10:00 11:00:00 01:50:00 05:25:00 08:15:00
96 Ben Line 09:09:00 10:25:00 01:16:00 02:00:00 04:51:00
97 Michael Lucas 08:54:00 10:24:00 01:30:00 03:10:00 06:16:00
98 Robert Mahon
99 Bill Manning 09:05:00 10:55:00 01:50:00 04:30:00 07:25:00
100 Paul Marriner 09:04:00 10:36:00 01:32:00 03:44:00 06:40:00
101 stephen marrs
102 Adam Marshall 08:57:00 10:10:00 01:13:00 cut short #VALUE!
103 Ruth Marshall 08:55:00 10:28:00 01:33:00 03:42:00 06:47:00
104 Jane Massey 09:09:00 10:43:00 01:34:00 03:50:00 06:41:00
105 David Mayer 09:07:00 10:29:00 01:22:00 03:39:00 06:32:00
106 Gavin Mccrindle 09:05:00 10:34:00 01:29:00 01:40:00 04:35:00
107 Dermot McGilligan 09:12:00 10:20:00 01:08:00 02:26:00 05:14:00
108 Graham Mckinney 08:50:00 10:10:00 01:20:00 02:30:00 05:40:00
109 Calum Meikle 08:52:00 10:26:00 01:34:00 02:19:00 05:27:00
110 Rodney Molyneux 08:51:00 10:36:00 01:45:00 04:13:00 07:22:00
111 Gary Moore
112 Robert Mullen 08:51:00 10:32:00 01:41:00 04:06:00 07:15:00
113 Robert Munro
114 Jason Murphy 09:12:00 10:10:00 00:58:00 01:17:00 04:05:00
115 Sean Murray 09:04:00
116 Darren Neale 09:05:00 10:24:00 01:19:00 03:15:00 06:10:00
117 David Nearney 09:02:00 10:02:00 01:00:00 01:34:00 04:32:00
118 Steven Neil 08:51:00 10:56:00 02:05:00 05:25:00 08:34:00
119 Thomas Nelson 09:05:00 10:17:00 01:12:00 02:42:00 05:37:00
120 Mark Nelson 08:51:00 10:06:00 01:15:00 02:15:00 05:24:00
121 Ivan Newton 09:10:00 10:26:00 01:16:00 02:50:00 05:40:00
195 Michael Noble 09:55:00 11:47:00 01:52:00 03:28:00 05:33:00
122 Matt Oakley 08:51:00 10:13:00 01:22:00 02:27:00 05:36:00
123 Sarah Palmer 09:09:00 10:40:00 01:31:00 03:31:00 06:22:00
124 Bob Parker 09:01:00 10:12:00 01:11:00 02:15:00 05:14:00
125 Neil Patchett 08:48:00 02:22:00 05:34:00
126 John Pearson 09:10:00 10:49:00 01:39:00 03:20:00 06:10:00
127 Steven Pilkington 09:07:00 10:33:00 01:26:00 02:34:00 05:27:00
128 Sarah Pilkington 09:07:00 10:33:00 01:26:00 03:31:00 06:24:00
129 tania porteous 09:04:00 10:46:00 01:42:00
130 Carol Prior 09:09:00 10:44:00 01:35:00 03:50:00 06:41:00
131 Scot Purves 08:52:00 10:06:00 01:14:00 02:14:00 05:22:00
132 Paul Raymond 08:51:00 10:33:00 01:42:00 04:05:00 07:14:00
133 Monica Readman 08:52:00 10:56:00 02:04:00 05:25:00 08:33:00
134 Helen Richardson 09:09:00 10:28:00 01:19:00 02:53:00 05:44:00
135 John Rippon 08:57:00 09:59:00 01:02:00 01:27:00 04:30:00
136 Steve Robert 08:52:00 10:11:00 01:19:00 02:52:00 06:00:00
137 Christian Roberts
138 Phil Robinson 09:07:00 10:24:00 01:17:00 02:23:00 05:16:00
139 Valerie Robinson 09:04:00 10:55:00 01:51:00 02:38:00 05:34:00
140 Bryan Robinson 08:54:00 09:52:00 00:58:00 12:54:00 16:00:00
141 John Routledge 09:10:00 10:25:00 01:15:00 02:00:00 04:50:00
142 George Russell 08:48:00 10:16:00 01:28:00 02:48:00 06:00:00
143 Robert Sanderson 09:02:00 10:33:00 01:31:00 04:07:00 07:05:00
144 Josephine Sanderson 09:04:00 10:55:00 01:51:00 02:38:00 05:34:00
145 Carmen Scott 09:17:00 10:33:00 01:16:00 02:57:00 05:40:00
146 Graeme Self 09:07:00 10:12:00 01:05:00 01:44:00 04:37:00
147 Marta Serafin 08:51:00 10:56:00 02:05:00 05:25:00 08:34:00
148 Wilf Sergant 09:17:00 10:39:00 01:22:00 03:16:00 05:59:00
149 William Sharman 08:55:00 10:26:00 01:31:00 02:40:00 05:45:00
150 Richard Sharp
151 Stuart Shiel 08:59:00 10:11:00 01:12:00 02:13:00 05:14:00
152 Karen Singleton 09:09:00 10:43:00 01:34:00 03:50:00 06:41:00
153 David Smart
154 Cheryl Stanley 08:51:00 10:56:00 02:05:00 05:25:00 08:34:00
197 Richard Steedman 09:55:00 11:47:00 01:52:00 03:28:00 05:33:00
155 Mark Stephenson 09:02:00 10:42:00 01:40:00
156 Gary Stephenson 08:55:00 10:28:00 01:33:00 03:42:00 06:47:00
157 john storey 09:04:00 10:46:00 01:42:00 04:53:00 07:49:00
158 Darren Stow 08:50:00 09:51:00 01:01:00 12:55:00 4:05:00
159 John Swanston 09:10:00 10:33:00 01:23:00
160 Ferenc Szendi 08:48:00 10:17:00 01:29:00 02:23:00 05:35:00
161 Dean Taylor 09:01:00 10:12:00 01:11:00 02:15:00 05:14:00
162 Howard Taylor 09:05:00 10:29:00 01:24:00 03:34:00 06:29:00
163 Graham Thompson 08:52:00 10:10:00 01:18:00 02:00:00 05:08:00
164 Neil Thompson 09:09:00 10:13:00 01:04:00 02:12:00 05:03:00
165 Lee Tones 08:52:00 10:15:00 01:23:00 02:42:00 05:50:00
166 Andrew Tones 08:57:00 10:00:00 01:03:00 01:25:00 04:28:00
167 Oliver Townsend 08:54:00 10:08:00 01:14:00 02:10:00 05:16:00
168 Carl Tuer 09:07:00 10:29:00 01:22:00 03:34:00 06:27:00
169 Andrew Turland 08:50:00 10:13:00 01:23:00 01:58:00 05:08:00
170 Janet Turner 08:50:00 10:56:00 02:06:00 05:25:00 08:35:00
171 Natasha Vukas 08:52:00 11:00:00 02:08:00
172 Kevin Wake 09:05:00 10:24:00 01:19:00 03:15:00 06:10:00
173 Chris Walker 08:51:00 10:13:00 01:22:00 02:28:00 05:37:00
174 Clifford Walton 08:54:00 10:00:00 01:06:00 02:04:00 05:10:00
175 Graeme Wells 08:57:00 10:10:00 01:13:00 02:06:00 05:09:00
176 Malcolm West 09:10:00 10:26:00 01:16:00 02:50:00 05:40:00
177 Terry Whatson 08:57:00 10:13:00 01:16:00 02:20:00 05:23:00
178 Liam Whitelaw 08:50:00 09:52:00 01:02:00 01:04:00 04:14:00
179 Steve Wilkes 09:05:00 10:29:00 01:24:00 03:34:00 06:29:00
180 Mark Wilkinson 09:07:00 10:33:00 01:26:00 03:31:00 06:24:00
181 Robert Willers 08:55:00 10:11:00 01:16:00 02:10:00 05:15:00
182 Simon Willis
183 Colin Wilson
184 Denise Wilson 10:56:00 10:56:00 05:25:00 17:25:00
194 Neil Wold 09:12:00 10:43:00 01:31:00
185 John Wolstenholme 08:59:00 10:14:00 01:15:00 01:55:00 04:56:00
186 Andrew Wood
187 Jason Woodhouse 08:48:00 10:01:00 01:13:00 01:58:00 05:10:00
190 ?? ?? 08:55:00 10:02:00 01:07:00 01:29:00 04:34:00
post

Curse of the Countryside: Litter

I’ll start this straight off the bat by saying 99% of people are responsible enough to not drop litter. It’s that tiny minority that is causing the issues. I get to spend a lot of time outdoors and notice if litter is an issue. This can be highlighted pre and post events as it’s clear if there are differences.

Litter is a problem for the environment and has consequences for the landscape and wildlife which are well known. It’s also incredibly lazy to not take away what has been brought in to these places. Seemingly there is an expectation that some kind of magic beings exist that can clear up after others. Well there isn’t.

I’m going to discuss a few recent examples and would like you to consider why this has happened.

Firstly, at the Kielder Chiller 24 a number of large bags of rubbish were left when the event was over. This was an event where everyone was on the course in their vehicles. That alone makes it inexusable to just dump a bag of rubbish by the side of a vehicle with the expectation that someone (myself or Forestry Commission) will clear it up. Take it away yourself.

Unrelated to the events I noticed a lot of empty bottles at the head of mountian bike trails in Thrunton Woods. These lazy feckers had enough energy to carry the full bottles up there so why can’t they take them out? Or do they expect well meaning organisations like the Thruton Trail Builders to just pick it up for them? Not good enough. I picked up as many as I could.

gel wrapperGel wrappers. If one things grinds my gears more than anything else in an event it is people who have gels while running and then throw them on the floor. You took them in so take them out. At Thrunton I reckon there was one person doing this as the gels were always the same brand. If you are a fellow runner you can help: should you see someone delibertely throw away a gel please note their number and report it to the next marshal. I’ll be waiting for a chat at the next point they reach. People who drop gels (or any other litter) are not welcome at events. I’m pretty sure any event organiser will say the same.

dog pooDog poo. This is one I just can’t get my head round. Why oh why would people go to the lengths of picking up dog poo, putting it in a bag and then dump it on the ground? I am not there to pick up bags of dog poo. What makes it worse is at Thrunton these bags were left next to the marquee, within metres of bins! This can equally be applied to any dog walker anywhere, there is no such thing as a dog poo fairy – you either bag it and bin it yourself or you just get a stick and flick it away to decompose. Do whatever, just don’t leave a bag of poo on the floor for someone else to collect.

Tissues. A recent article in TGO magazine highlighted this growing problem. For some reason people are seeing it as acceptable to use tissues/wipes and then just throw them away. I found quite a few on the route on the weekend. If one is being used for blowing noses or whatever then it needs to be carried out with you. These tissues are wipes were most prominent lining the road next to where cars were parked when everyone had gone. This means they must have been used while people were standing next to their cars and THEN just thrown on the ground? Why, why, why? Take the rubbish away with you.

Rant over. I’m sure you’re getting the general picture and understand that it’s a very small amount of people that do this. I’d like to think it’s just ignorance and these tendancies can be corrected. Don’t be afraid to speak out if you see it happening. I spend a lot of time with National Park rangers, Forestry Commission beat officers, farmers and land owners and all they want is to follow the accepted saying: leave it as you found it.

Help keep these places beautiful. Don’t drop litter.

Thrunton Thriller ’17 – What A Day!

It’s the end of the 2016 Thrunton Thriller as everyone has left after an exhilarating run through the trees, high routes and low routes of Thrunton Woods. The event had sold out with 200 people and it was clear that it’s current setup has some logistical constrains, in particular around parking. It also took over the main public car park and blocked access for any other users. And so it was decided that to allow more people to participate in this flagship trail run some deep thinking was needed.

Step up Mr Jonathan Farries, local beat officer for the Forestry Commission. The north road ha been identified as being slightly wider than all the others and due to its length it could accommodate a large number of vehicles. Some people would have a nice long walk to register but as the saying goes: the early bird gets the worm! A limit of 400 runners was set in place as a test for 2017 and we were off and running. 2 months were left on the clock and entries slammed shut.

The altered location meant that the routes needed to be reviewed. Clearly the description of the distances mean little to me as the actual distances can vary quite a bit. However, the quality of the overall run and the way it strings together is very important. Having a good knowledge of the area and doing some further exploratory sessions revealed a route which I was more than happy with.

Fast forward to the weekend of the event and it’s time to stop the months of planning and move into the delivery phase. Fellow organiser Paul Kemp and friends Paul Eggleston Brown and Mick Barker were on hand for a spot of course marking and marquee erection. I would have said this is the “erection team” but something about that doesn’t sound quite right :-) With the marquee now in place it was now a matter of getting all the gear setup and thanks goes to Dad for bringing up an extra load of stuff in his car.

Walking the route is something I always enjoy when setting up. The thought that a load of marauding trail runners will soon be ploughing their way through the same tracks makes me smile. Crossing the river and seeing the mud bank brough out a chuckle for sure. The weather decided to rain all day but eventually there was about 500 markers out on the course in the form of either yellow signs or red and white tape. Fingers crossed that no-one needed a map.

Eggers cooked some serious stakes in the marquee with the radio on and after a chat and a hot chocolate (rock and roll) it was time to get comfortable on a nice gravel and mud combo floor. My dog Bob cosied in beside me and we listened as the wind picked up and blew hard against the sides. Given such loud noises from the wind and the rain sleep was at a premium. However, I didn’t mind this too much as the pitter-patter of precipitation against the roof were remarkably soothing.

Steak time

5:30am and the alarm goes off. Time to get up and get started with final prep before runners start turning up. Marshals start arriving and the workload is spread out with the planning docuemnt taking care of pre-defined roles. It wasn’t long until the first runner turned up and I could get to see first hand what the parking was going to be like. Very sensibly they parked as far over as they could and it was evident that there would be loads of space for vehicles to come in and out.

Within an hour the arrival of cars had become a steady stream and it was nice to walk past so many smiling faces on my way in the opposite direction. Some were familiar and others were new and everyone was equally welcome. My cousin Alan Wilson did a sterling job of getting everyone parked up as soon as possible when they came in so many thanks to him for that.  David Wilson, chief radio man, got to take my car through the forest for some 4×4 action.

Thrunton Thriller 17

I wandered off to chat with Mountain Rescue and meet the medics who were meeting at the usual public car park. After a few phone calls all was well and the event could take place. I headed back down to the marquee area and was delighted to see so many people kitted up and ready for action. The queue to the toilets was not so long and various heads were seen bobbing in the trees as alternative toilets were found. A 15 minute delay was enforced to give people more of a chance to reach the start area from their cars.

Over the barking of the dogs the safety briefing was nice and short. The time was set and the marshals headed off into place to deliver the news that when it came to directions. The countdown was on. Nervous anticipation was in the air. For those who conquered last years run it all about the challenge. For newbies it was a step into the unknown.

3 2 1 and “go” said the kids which initiated 345 runners to set off down the road on their own journeys. The two distances split early on with the short route having a bit of forest track action before an early start learnign the art of muddy ascents. The long route gained a surprise section at the start which was akin to the forests of Cambodia. Had I not mentioned the required machete in the mandatory kit list? After slip-sliding through here everyone was back on the forest trails and going up the same hill as the short route.

Thrunton Thriller 17

I love that first hill leading up to Thrunton Crags. It resembles the Endor forest in Star Wars and I expect a few Ewoks to come pouncing out at any time. The climbs begins with a gentle climb that is lined with rocks and mud. This is just a precursor to the real deal as the path turns sharply right and reveals a gradient fit only for those with grappling hooks and ropes. Heart rates were sent soaring and anyone who thought this would be a PB day now had this thought well and truly blown out of the water.

Eventually the gaggle of runners popped out at the top to be greeted by Helen Kemp and her dog Tilly. A quick point of an arm sent people on a most welcome gentle down hill before bike marshal Keith Fawcett delivered the crushing blow of another ascent. Not too long this time and only until you saw bike marshal Mick Barker who was the man to guide you all the way from here to the first check point.

The trails to checkpoint one are a technical trail runners delight. Bounding down mountain bike tracks, your eyes constantly searching for the next place to stop a foot. Watching out for roots and rocks that can have you flat on your face in an instant. At the same time avoiding tree branches that reached out to scrape your face and legs. I adore these sections and a huge thanks needs to be given to Thrunton Trail Builders who make and maintain them.

In 2016 cehckpoint 1 was a mere distraction as most runners thundered past and on with their day. This year it was the place to be with Brian Kemp dishing out water, sweets ans flapjacks like they were going out of fashion. Water needed to be resupplied as you got through so much of it! The other marshal George Wilson positioned himself just inside the trees on the other side of the river and snapped away as people tackled the muddy river bank with looks of shock and anquish plastered on their faces.

Thrunton Thriller 17

People who refuelled at checkpoint one were wise to do so. What followed was appropriately named the “Hill of Doom”, a long winding journey of increasing severity that eventually popped out onto the crags some 200m higher up than when you started. I’d imagined that a few of those flapjacks eaten at the foot of the hill were thinking about working their way back up.

The darkness of the trees came into stark contrast as the open moorland of the rocky crags revealed themselves. Jim Imber was positioned on high and smiled at all the runners who ran, walked or crawled on their way past. To the right was a fantastic vista of the mighty Cheviots in the distance. Hedgehope, Cheviot and Bloodybush prominent on the skyline. The moisture in the air even created a beautiful rainbow as captured by a few pics I’ve seen on social media. The end of the rainbow seemed to indicate the pot of gold lay somewhere in the bogs just before checkpoint 2.

High up on these crags the wind had found its force and blew with vigour into the faces of the runners. This time mud mingled with heather and rock so only the brave or the foolish would be looking up at the scenery for too long. It’s a nice long trot along the top but all good things must come to an end. After passing Mark Stephenson people dropped off the rather steep western end of the crags and tip-toed their way down to the valley. This track is a proper muddy dream but only a gentle pre-cursor of what was to come.

Thrunton thriller 17

Crossing the river and dragging yourself up the side of a fence was only just to get you back to the edge of the forest. The up hill section has had its fair share of erosion with ruts forming all over the place. Luckily the ground is fairly solid and some decent progress can be made. As for the next bit however, the same cannot be said.

You can’t beat a it of bog to get people laughing at themselves. Even the most seasoned of runners such as John Butters have an inner grin when faced with something that really tests people. The undulating ground is dotted with wet patches that can consume a full lower leg and I’m betting more than a few people found this out first hand. The worst of it happens as checkpoint 2 comes within touching distance and by the time bedraggled runners reached David Wilson, his some and Lucy Imber they were in need of some refreshment!

Checkpoint 2 is where the two routes split once more. The short route deviate straight past the tent then to the left whilst the long route took a right turn and headed once more into the valley. The long section is a bit of a beautiful bonus as the mud strewn pathway arcs its way downwards and running can be come rhythmical and fast. Touching the bottom of the valley people had to take a sharp left and traverse treacle esque mud before popping back onto the solid forest tracks.

This firm base was not to last long though. Brian and George had the delightful task of pointing people off into the trees once more as runners had to battle their way up a mountain bike trail. A route had been set through the myriad of trails that had people scanning and searching for the next marker. Sunlight couldn’t penetrate in here and it wasn’t until a clearing half way through before illumination joined the party. Scrambling up a few rocks was the final task before the relief of seeing the lovely long forest track.

Thrunton Thriller 17

It’s exactly this kind of long frest track that sucks the life out of me. One where you can see it miles off into the distance and it never seems to get any bloody nearer! The Allendale Challenge has a stretch just like it. Runners trundled along, probably grateful for the switch to firm ground and then arrived back at the checkpoint tent to meet back up with the short route.

Following on from the checkpoint 2 tent was a section that can best be described as “off a cliff”. To tackle this the main ingredient was a sense of humour and some good solid grip on your shoes. I had the pleasure of walking back up this and had a few choice comments from those coming the other way. Luckily the majority of people shimmied down the steep banks and stayed upright.

Thrunton Thriller 17

From here it was just a mere kilometre to the finish. There was a report of a sign missing, a right turn that led to a handful of people doing an extra loop which was the reverse of the start for the long route. I have no explantion why this happened. I put the yellow sign in place myself after the runners went through and when I received a call on the radio about runners saying they had took a wrong turn i went down and checked it and it was still there. It may have fallen over and someone put it back in place or maybe two signs are needed next time. Whatever the explanation, I apologise for those who burnt those extra calories.

As suspected by regular High Fell Events participants there would be a sting in the tail. My cousin Alan had the delightful task of delivering the news to already tired souls. By some miracle no-one punched him in the face and everyone took on the challenge of the final forest slog. There was no track to follow, just join up the dots of the markers and suddenly pop out at the finish line and your day was done.

The fast people came in spread out but soon enough the momentum gathered and a stream of runners piled into the marquee area. Little Alfie dished out the medals as Drew Swinburne and Debra Hedley took the timings. A lot of people chose to stay and watch people emerge out of the shrubbery at the finish area, others chose to collect their t-shirts from Allison Kemp and Alison Chalk (Cotswold Outdoors). Most people made a bee line for the coffee and cake served by Yvonne Kemp and Eileen Wilson and a well earned rest.

The final places were a bit confused and I didn’t figure this out until after. This only effected the 1st, 2nd and 3rd of half marathon and one of the age categories but the evening after the run I received several emails from people saying they had switched distances or allowed someone else to run in their place and the replacement was a different category. No wonder I was confused! Merrell, Mountain Fuel and Cotswold Outdoors all supplied extra pries so many thanks to them. Pedaling Squares supplied free coffee leaflets and who doesn’t love free coffee?

As the organiser it’s this finish area that I very rarely get to see. It was excellent to stop and chat with a runners to find out what they liked and didn’t like. Some of the personal stories are always good and seeing the camaraderie from club members such as the Vegan Runners or AHRC lifts my spirits.

Thrunton Thriller 17

A massive well done to all involved. You took on one of the regions most technical and challenging half marathons and kicked its butt. There were no doubt a few tired legs afterwards but that’s all part of the event. I wonder how many people will be back to tame Thrunton once again next year and I wonder if I can think of any more sneaky endings?

When the place was deserted of runners the clean up commenced. I say clean up but it should more appropriately be named mu-up as everywhere was covered in a think layer of gloopy mud laced with sand from the forest track. My brother Paul, Alan, Eileen, Yvonne, Brian and George dismantled the marquee in super quick time and piled it in the back of my car. It’s safe to say it needs another outing to be cleaned! After several hours all the cars were packed to the roof and it was time to leave. Some kit would have to be picked up the net day but for now it was time for a well earned rest.

The following day I headed back alone. There is something serene and satisfying about the day after. The kit was quickly cleared and the toilets picked up by Nixon Hire. All that was left was to walk the course and clear the signs. Most had been collected already by Mark Stephenson, Mick Barker and the sweeps for the day Andrew Clark and his wife. Tracking over the route I look down at the footprints and imagine what it’s been like for those who ran through here the previous day. On Monday I had similar views and sat several times to appreciate just how beautiful the place is.

After a long walk with the dog we had completed the loop and that was it for another year. A donation has been made to the Thrunton Trail Builders and I need to repeat that the mountain bike trails used in this event are not for the general public – please keep off them. The whole High Fell Events team and everyone else concerned hopes you had an excellent day out and enjoyed the running. If you have any feedback or suggested changes for next year please don’t hesitate to get in touch. Now how do I find a neck deep mud pit for next year…

If you liked the Thrunton Thriller then take a look at the Cragside Cracker in October as it has similar terrain.  For runs on the open fells have a look at the Ingram Trail Run or the Clennell Trail Run.

Results can be found here:

Merrell All Out Crush and All Out Charge

Mud, and water, an ever present in trail running, how you footwear deals with it can make the experience wholly more or less enjoyable. The All Out Crush from Merrell is designed not to keep the water out; because that’s inevitable surely, but to deal with mud and water efficiently. This is achieved through a quick drying mesh upper and drainage ports on either side of the shoe. At 218 grams per half pair it’s one of the lightest shoes in Merrell’s range. This lightweight minimalist design promotes speed and mobility while the rock plate and toe cap offer protection from impact and trail debris. This shoe is designed for tearing up softer ground such as hillside wooded trails, and off piste. Uses range from obstacle course racing and competition running, to trails and mid-distance running events.

Merrell All Out Crush

For the more defined trails the Merrell All Out Charge offers more stability for a neutral running style while still performing on the trail and when it gets muddy. The HyperWrap 360 Fit System of the Merrell All Out Charge keeps the foot in place for agility and natural stability, as well as allowing a more efficient stride by keeping the foot in contact with the shoe.

Merrell All Out Charge

These trail shoes from Merrell utilise M- Select Grip outsoles specifically designed to deliver durable performance and traction with specialized angled lugs releasing dirt on the move. The stacked circular lugs on the All Out Charge are spaced to disperse debris and enable quick directional changes. As are the softer pinwheel lugs of the All Out Crush.

Both these shoes are built upon Merrell’s Unique Unifly midsole. Unifly technology consist of a resilient EVA foam midsole to reduce compression and enhance the shoes performance lifespan, as well as significantly reducing weight. This is coupled with shock pods placed in the heel and forefoot contact zones, to disperse impact and increase connectivity. Unifly aims to be soft against the ground for cushioning and terrain absorption, and firm against the foot for stability and agility.

The Merrell All Out Crush and All Out Charge have that out the box comfort synonymous with Merrell footwear but are of a minimalist design, no air cushion here, this means great responsiveness and feel when on the move promoting a more natural style. Merrell also caters for the ethically conscious of us with these styles being fully Vegan friendly in there construction.

The particular products illustrating this article have been used on moorland trails, muddy hillside and wooded rooty tracks around the North Yorkshire Moors National Park over the last 5 months.

These Shoes and other Merrell products will be at High Fell Event’s Thrunton Thriller on the 19th of March 2017 along with some Technical Reps to offer advice on the latest gear from Merrell.

See these products and the full range at www.merrell.com.

Merrell Trail Shoes

Thrunton Thriller T-Shirts

A very exciting post this one.  Maybe not.  Everyone gets a medal but t-shirts were an optional extra.

Here is a list of all entrants on whether they ordered a t-shirt or not.  Blank spaces did not.

Participant First Name Participant Last Name T-Shirt Size
Jona Aal
Alison Ainsley Small
Aaron Aisbitt Large
Jill Anderson Medium
Steve Anderson Large
James Andrews
Chris Appleby
Paul Appleby Medium
Paul Archer Small
Milly Archibald
Vicky Armitage Medium
Darren Armstrong
Caroline Armstrong
David Asquith Large
Sid Astbury
Heather Bacon
James Bailand Small
Lisa Baker
Caroline Balsdon Medium
Paul Banks Medium
Matthew Banner Extra Large
Jennifer Barnes Small
Emma Barnett
Lisa Baston Small
Jason Bateman Large
Glenn Batey
Karl Baxter Large
Ailsa Beattie Small
Martin Bell Large
April Bell Small
Paul Bellingham Medium
Marnie Bennett Medium
Colin Best
Tricia Best Medium
James Bewley
Caroline Billis
Suzette Birch Small
Alastair Black
Hannah Blacknell
Gary Blanks
David Bond
Alison Bone Medium
Laura Bothoms Large
Amy Bound Small
Lyn Boyle
Gemma Bradley
Craig Bradshaw
Joanne Brannen Small
Vikki Brewer Small
Tara Broadfoot Medium
Anthony Brockbank Medium
Kim Bronze
Ian Brooks
Belinda Brown Small
Nick Brown
Lalage Brown Small
David Brown
Greg Brown
Michael Brown
Jane Buckingham
Howard Buckingham
Tony Bullock Medium
Helen Bullock Small
Julie Burns Medium
John Butters
Kate Butterworth Small
Ann Byers Extra Large
Greg Cameron Medium
Mairi Campbell
Karen Campbell Small
David Canner Medium
Katherine Carman
Alison Chalk
Chris Chase
Louise Chicken Medium
Samantha Clappison Medium
Emma Clark
Scott Clelland Large
Krista Clubb Small
Shelley Coates
Andrew Cobb Large
Ellen Cole
Christopher Coleman Medium
Jamie Collin Medium
Deborah Collins Small
Georgia Collins
Julie Collinson Small
Nichola Conlon
Sharon Cook Small
Alex Cook Medium
Julie Cook
Paula Cromar Medium
Martyn Crooks Medium
Jason Crosby
Andrew Cruddas
John Culpin
Victoria Curry
Vanessa Cutter
Lee Daglish
Alan Dalgarno Large
Tamela Davison
Kyle Day Medium
Frances Dembele Small
John Dennis
Vicki Deritis
Claire Diamond-Howe
Julie Dick Small
Ian Dixon
Jon Dixon Medium
Corrinne Dockwray
Charlotte Dodds Small
Paul Dolphin Medium
Maureen Donkin Small
Clare Douglas Small
Lee Drummond Large
Bill Duff Large
Andrew Duggan Extra Large
Julie Dumpleton
Lucy Dunlop Small
Nicola Dunn
Christopher Dunn
Matthew Dutton
Sue Edwards Extra Large
Carl Ellison Extra Large
Anthony Erskine
Alys Evans
Peter Ewart Medium
Rich Fawcett Small
Michelle Fawcett Small
Mark Ferg Large
Catherine Fish
Haydn Ford Medium
Chris Ford
Colin Foster Large
Vincent Foster Medium
Martin France
Mitchell Fraser
Rosie Frater
Lindsay Freeman Small
Anna French Small
Jenny Friend
Nathan Fuller Medium
Stefan Gabor Medium
Richard Garland Medium
David Garrick Large
Jessica Garrick Small
Julie Gascoigne Medium
Johannes Gausden Medium
Jeanette Geldart
Melanie George
Graeme Gidney Medium
Nicholas Gilbert Medium
Paul Gillen Medium
David Gilroy Medium
David Gilthorpe Extra Extra Large
Jenny Glossop Medium
Kelly Grady
Ian Graham
Andrew Graham Small
Shirley Gravett Small
Phil Green
Ian Grey
Laura Grundy Small
Kevin Gunn
Joyce Guthrie Small
David Haigh
James Halton Large
Paul Hamilton Large
Blair Hamilton Medium
Neil Hamilton Small
Tasmin Hardy Medium
Matthew Hargraves Medium
John Harris
Steve Haswell Extra Large
Alison Havery Medium
Jason Heads
Lee Hemlsey Large
Kelly Henretty Large
Amy Herdman Small
Kurt Heron Small
Andrew Hewitt Large
Tom Hill Small
Clare Hiscok Small
Leah Hobson Medium
Kerry Hodgson Medium
Wendy Hodgson Medium
Dieter Hofmann
Victoria Holliday Large
Richard Holloway Medium
Mike Hoppe
Barry Hornsby Extra Extra Large
Colin Horton Small
Michael Howe
Nigel Howitt
Angela Huddleston Small
Yvonne Huebner
James Humberstone
William Humphrey Large
Fabian Hurbin Large
Andrew Hutton Medium
Berit Inkster
Jane Irvine Medium
Philip Irwin Medium
Catherine Isaac Small
Keith Jackson Large
Bernie James Small
Alison Janes
Nina Jensen
Terni Jhooti Medium
Kirsten Johnson
Alan Johnson
Steven Johnson Medium
Jackie Johnson
Philip Johnston Large
Emy Jones Small
Chris Jones Extra Large
Duncan Jordan
Alexa Jury
Christopher Kell
Lorna Kelly Small
Luke Kennedy Medium
Richard Kent
Reece Kesson
Sarah Kidd
Craig Kingston Extra Large
Richard Kirby
Andrea Kirton Small
Gary Knox Medium
Philip Kreczak
Aileen Lambie Small
Camilla Lauren-Maatta Small
Jackie Law Small
Tracey Lawman-Charters Medium
Lesley Leeson
Gary Leonard Medium
Nicola Leonard Small
Paul Lewington
Sarah Lewington
Michael Lewis Medium
Graham Lewis-Dale
Suzanne Lewis-Dale
Mark Linsley Medium
Wendy Little
Michael Lloyd Large
Maxine Lock
Stephen Locker Medium
Catarina Loureiro
Vicky Lowrie Small
Joanne Lucking
Philip Luscombe Large
Chris Macdonald Extra Large
Sonya Macdonald Small
Nicola Macdonald Medium
Martin MacDonald
Helen Macpherson Small
Ian Maddison
Adam Malloy
Marc Marce Medium
Lynsey Marcon Small
Gary Mason Extra Large
David Massie Medium
Suzanne Mavir Small
Martin Mawer Medium
Andrew Maxwell
Emma Mcclurey
Simon McClurey
Becky McCormick
Paddy McDonald
Fran McGrath Large
Bob McKay
Elaine McKechnie Small
Sharon McKee
Norrie McKinley Large
John McLean Medium
Michael McNally Medium
Frank Mcpartland
Vicky Meaby Medium
Graeme Mearns
Ben Miglinczy Large
Joanne Mitchinson Small
Paul Mitchison Large
David Moore Large
Kate Mosettig Small
Eric Murphy Medium
Frances Naylor Medium
Tim Neighbour Large
Bob Neill
Ian Nesbitt Extra Large
James Nettleton
Lynsey Nichol Small
Debra Nichol Medium
Darren Nicholson
Debbie Noble
Sean O’Brien Extra Large
Robert O’Connor
David O’Farrell Medium
Hilary O’Shea
Peter Oldham
Lynne Parlett Small
Joanne Parnaby Small
Carol Parry Small
Garry Paxton Medium
Duncan Paylor Large
Martin Paylor Large
Jack Pellew Large
Andrew Pennington Large
Stacey Pope Medium
Ivor Potter Medium
Tony Priest
Darren Prime Large
Andrew Pringle Large
Christopher Pringle
Steve Proud
Richard Purdy
Michael Rafferty Medium
Iain Ralphson Medium
Andy Reay
Alice Redfern Small
Gill Rice
Audrey Richardson Large
Colin Ridgway Medium
James Roake
Tara Robb Small
Andrew Robertshaw
Ross Robertson Large
Andy Robertson Large
Thomas Robshaw
John Robson Medium
Jo Robson Small
David Rochester Large
Tom Rogers
Nicola Roper
Benjamin Ross Medium
Elaine Rudman Small
Mark Rutherford Large
Ryan Sample
David Sanders
Emma Sanderson Large
Stephen Sayer Medium
Jennifer Scarlett Small
Derek Scott Large
Shaun Scott Extra Large
Gemma Scott Small
Garry Scott Large
Jenny Search
Karen Shaw Small
Brian Shiel Large
Ryan Shiel Medium
Ian Sills
Jane Sills Medium
Rebecca Amy Simpson Medium
Duncan Simpson Medium
Adele Sinclair Small
Michelle Smart Medium
Judith Smith Medium
Allan Smith
Andy Smith
Tim Snowdon Extra Large
Adele Southern Small
Karen Spence
Karen Spencer Small
Rachael Spowart Medium
Will Stageman
Cheryl Stanley
Rachael Steel Small
Mel Steer
Lynn Stephenson Medium
Lee Stephenson
Ian Stephenson Extra Large
Mike Steven
Wim Stevenson Medium
Jakki Stewart
Janice Stewart Small
Sharon Storey Large
Peter Storey
Steven Studley
George Surrey
Lyndsey Surrey
Kerry Swindon Medium
Lisa Tang
David Telford Extra Extra Large
Alice Tetley-Paul
Leahn Theedam Parry Medium
James Thompson Medium
John Thompson Medium
Lee Thompson Large
Julie Thompson Small
Graeme Thompson Medium
Gemma Thompson Medium
Stephen Thompson
Craig Thomson Medium
John Tollitt Small
Iain Turnbull Large
Lindsay Turnbull
Ian Turnbull Medium
Kerri Turner Large
David Turpin
Liz Turrell Medium
Garry Twist Medium
Libby Unsworth
Alan Unsworth
Jacinta Wake Small
Clare Walker Small
Liz Wallace Small
Alan Wallace
Gillian Wallace Small
Elaine Walls
Adam Walton Large
Scott Watson Medium
Carole Watt Large
Deborah Watts
Helen Weatherall
Robbie Weir Large
Clare Weir
John Welford Large
Sarah Welsh Medium
Holly White
Kris White Large
Sally Wilkinson Small
Sally Williams Medium
Owen Williams
Steve Williams
Gareth Williams Large
Megan Williams
Lee Williams
Michael Williams
Deborah Williams
Mark Wilson Medium
Claire Wood
Neil Wood-Mitchell
Jason Woodhouse Large
Nancy Worsley Medium
Edwin Wright Large
Christopher Wright Extra Large
Paul Yeadon Medium
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Thrunton Bits n Bobs

Here are a couple of bits of info for the Thrunton Thriller I’m getting out early.  Don’t worry though, they’ll be covered again in the info pack.

1. Parking

As many of you will be aware parking using the regular Thrunton car park was a bit of a hassle last year.  We restricted the numbers to 200 for that exact reason.  It also meant that the general public could not park in the main car park area as we had completely taken it over!  We’re sold out again but this time it’s 400+ runners lined up for the challenge so after a bit of a long sit down with the Forestry Commission the decision was taken to move the start/finish area and make the event self contained within a certain park of the woods.  This area is behind a locked FC gate so if you want to have a look you’ll need to use those legs of yours.

The map below shows a map of basic parking info:

Thrunton parking

Points to note:

  1. The majority of people will be in the main parking are marked above.  This is a wide forest track.  You will need to park your cars as far to one side as possible to allow other vehicles to pass in the opposite direction at the end of the event (or emergency vehicles).  Cars and campervans only here please.  Parking staff will point you to a suitable spot – please do not pick a place for yourself as you may well block other traffic.
  2. Extra large vehicles will need to go to the area marked “PARKING AREA 2″ on the map.  This is actually just the usual car park.  Motorhomes will block access if they go down the main parking forest track so they are required to park in parking area 2.
  3. The start/finish area is at the end of the main parking forest track.  The earlier you get there, the closer you will be.
  4. Share cars if possible.
  5. Parking opens 7am onwards.

2. Prizes

There are going to be a lot more prizes on offer this year for age categories.  There are shown below and are for both distances:

  • 1st, 2nd, 3rd male
  • 1st, 2nd 3rd female
  • 1st MV40
  • 1st FV40
  • 1st MV50
  • 1st FV50
  • 1st MV60
  • 1st FV60
  • 1st MV70 (no female 70+ entered)

The presentation will be made, subject to no incidents requiring attention,  at 1pm when the majority of runners are back.  This will be at the start/finish area in the marquee.  I realise a few people will be waiting around for some time so we will have some hot drinks for sale along with some cakes cooked by a local small company.

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Kielder Chiller 24 2017 Review

teamcyclesI took my dog for a walk on Monday morning after the event only to find Pedaling Squares cafe was closed. I should know it’s closed every Monday. Clearly the mind is not working as it did pre Kielder Chiller 24. On the way home I stopped for a coffee at Starbucks next the Metrocentre. Strangely enough sitting outside in the winter air actually felt bizarrely warm. As I sat supping a hot drink I couldn’t help but look around and the buzz of people milling around. Business meetings, laptops clicking away, friends catching up etc. This was a whole world away from 24 hours earlier when I’d joined a host of like minded maniacs for 24 hours of frenetic madness in the eye of a mealstrom.

Kielder Chiller 24It all began in 2014 when the idea first popped in to my head to do something I’d always thought about but never stepped across that rubicon to make it happen. High Fell Events came into being and top of my wish list was a 24 hour mountain bike race. Just the small issue of figuring out where, when, how and all that jazz. Fast forward a few years and I must have covered pretty much all the mtb trails in the north east and settled on Kielder as the obvous choice with its combination of potential for cold weather, remote setting and hard wearing trails. For 2 years I plugged away trying to get insurance and then just as I was about to give up a lovely man called Fraser from No Fuss Events popped up and saved the day.

Mountain FuelWith chips now all lined up it was time to pull the trigger as it was September and the event was in Feb. Alex MacLennan of the Forestry Commission helped massively in determining where the event should take place and offered a huge amount of advice and assurances that it can all be done. It was hard to find a route that ticked all the boxes in terms of rights of way, parking, facilities, exposure, accessibility and so forth. Settling on the Deadwater Red as a starting point it was then just a case of removing tricky bits and adding in some forest tracks that could be used for parking.

And lo the mighty lord came down from the heavens and said “let there be 24 hour racing at Kielder” and thus there was. The weekend of reckoning came along and all the crazy plans upon plans with further revised plans had to be put into effect. Having a top marshal team always helps and they just got stuck in as usual. Cars arrived on Friday night, some at Hawkhirst to stay there and others in B&Bs and lay bys in the immediate vicinity. My own sleep was none existent with a brain that was ticking over at 10,000 rpm. When the alarm fizzed into life at 5am I was already up and at it.  My brother and Jim Imber arrived soon after and full on prep was on the agenda.

Kielder Chiller 24Stepping out of the marquee in which I’d slept I was greeted by a blanket of snow all around. “Bollocks” went though my head first and then I’d downgraded that to “well this could be interesting”. I jumped in my car and did a few circuits of the main parking areas to try and wear away the snow before parking commenced. There was no way cars could get up these hills if the snow turned out to be too thick. There’s one thing going up in my 4×4 with huge off road tyres and it’s quite another doing it in a van or car with normal road tyres. Luckily enough some grooves were made and when the first cars made it up successfully it was just a matter of getting them all out on the course.

Parking was always going to be an issue. I’d built my plans around having all three tiers in the car park but couldn’t get use of that all important bottom tier. Hence the forest sections were set out with parking provisions and the main drag, the high exposed bit, was marked up to have cars lined up all along it with just a small gap left for riding. What actually happened is that nearly all the cars fitted in lay-bys so the forest track was hardly blocked at all. This meant a lot of people must have been pitting together and sharing vehicles. I’d walked round and invesigated all nearby fields for suitability but nothing ticked the boxes so as the saying goes: it is what it is.

Cars were placed on the course, Jim Imber handled the car park area whilst Brian (better know as Dad to me) helped with the forest tracks stuff. Joanne (sister) and Yvonne (Mam) met everyone as they arrived and directed to the right place. It was quite a sight to come back to the car park and find an array of gazeebos, vans and cars all to the tune of buzzing generators and the clanking of mechanical prep. With 90 minutes to go until the start it was time for everyone to get registered and receive their invaluable sportident timing chip.

The clocked edged its way closer to midday and the medical team were not on site. A few frantic calls later and they were located via a tracker as being half way up the resevoir. It was good to know they were near but life was a lot easier when I could physically see them with my own eyes! With the final brick falling in to place it was time for a quick safety briefing. The usual safety stuff was followed by a speech from Alex MacLennan who pointed out that this inaugural event could become an iconic showpiece for the trails of Kielder.

A short shuffle up to the starting line and as soon as everyone was ready it was game time and we’re off. The quad led them off and was soon off into the distance leaving the riders behind. The singletrack was skipped but not the second bit at Primrose Wood as David Wilson and his son pointed people into the woods for the first action of the day. With a bit more forest track to spread people out it was then just the small matter of bunched riders all going into the rock gardens at the same time. I heard there were a few moments and I had a chuckle when the stories came though.

Was the course marked out properly? Would someone go the wrong way? Luckily I had someone check the route in the morning and report all was fine. Sure enough some 40 minutes after the off the first riders came careering in to the marquee, dibbed and then shot off into the distance once more. And thus began the rythm of the next 24 hours. Suddenly from this point onwards things seem to calm down as the course was functioning as planned. The only issue was the sudden rush of riders and Helen and Joanne processed them efficiently and sent them on their way.

Times indicated that people had gone out fast. A few of those whom I’d expected to be quick were actually well down the table. This meant they were either off their game or more likley was that they knew what pacing was all about. It would be apparent that these people would slowly rise up through the rankings over the course of the event, proving that consistency is key.

Kielder Chiller 24There is no hiding the fact that the first 12 hours of this race were done in simply horrific winter conditions. I have nothing but total respect and admiration for every rider that put on their kit and headed out into conditions more suitable for penguins than humans. Even the sheep had ran for cover. This was about the time Ben Othen had us in stiches as we watched him fruitlessly try to bail out his tent. Finally I think he just gave up and slept in a few inches of water. In the lower areas, such as David Wilson’s marshal point on Lightpipes road there was next to no wind to be had. Conversely on the now legendary high road the levels of exposure were like some kind of Alaskan reality TV show.

To counter this cold there were a number of ingenius tactics deployed by riders and support crews. A well thought out back to back Transit camp setup took a great deal of thought. Double sized marquees pushed together for shared heat. My personal favourite was the teepee with wood burning stove inside that was possibly the most cosy place of all to be. Damp clothes were hanging from above and they all sat round in shorts and t-shirts while the snow fell hard outside.

The sense of responsibility at an event like this is immense. I can only compare it to feeling like you have loads of members of your own family doing something quite extreme for a long time. Continuous pressure is the name of the game. This was all rendered useless when I was told I had to go and make a phone call immediately down at The Bike Place. I ran down to speak to Linda back in the office. She told me one of the competitors children had been taken to hospital and to get that person to ring home immediately. Well the first challenge was finding that person but as luck would have it some 20 minutes later they came into the marquee area. They had to leave immediately as some things in life are top priority. I’m glad to report it all turned out fine in the end.

A few hours passed and the weather continued it’s gloriously bad state. Blizzards frequented the high road and rain battered off the marquees down low. The low road following the mad high pass had quickly turned into a mud fest and rendered a whole new element to the course. It was also at this time that people realised that Kielder has a lot of its tracks built with sandstone and when it’s lashing it down this very same grit works its way everywhere. Brake pads were disintigrating like candy floss. Cycleworks North East and The Bike Place were getting frequent vists from frantic bikers wondering why their pads were evaporating into the night sky. Several people had seized brakes or had worn through to their calipers.

The light faded around 5pm and soon that magical sight of bright led lights zipped through the air. There’s something etheral about seeing these powerful lights moving through the trees at night. The riders at the sharp end of things were well into their stride now. Naomi Frierich was in annihilation mode and banged out the laps to open up a huge gap. Her husband was checking the timing screen and calculating with alarming accuracy just what was needed to get the job done. The i-cycles team were obviously well drilled and shouted out to the next rider as they came in.

It was around this time that I’d figured that I hadn’t really seen any of the familiar faces such as Rich Rothwell, Rich Smith, Jason Woodhouse or Keith Fawcett. I realised that the thick mud had made everyone look a similar shade of brown and it was hard distinguishng one rider from another. Maybe there should have been a marshal with a jet wash to blast everyone at the end of the lap. Let’s be fair, no-one could get any wetter!

At around 11:30 the action faded away. Most sensible people decided that 11 and a half hours of riding in a frozen tundra was job done and hit the sack for some shut eye. Not even the largest dose of very fine sports nutrition from Mountain Fuel was going to keep anyone going at this hour. The flow of riders into the main tent turned into a trickle with the leaders being the main riders circulating. The quads just kept going on and on and more disconcertingly the fastest of these quads were still putting in some proper tasty laps.

There was a nice little pattern forming from midnight to around 5am. This was also the hardest point of the event from the marshal point view as staying awake was becoming an issue. Personally my body ached for sleep and several times I tried to nod off but the overworked mind wouldn’t allow it. I wishes I was at the party tent, marshal point 3, with Yvonne, Eileen, George and Brian. Eventually when the light came round again peoples bodies came back to life and the numbers out on the circuit increased once more.

Kielder Chiller 24The final few hours dragged then speeded up and then dragged once more. Was my mind playing tricks on me? At this point the positions had fallen into place and the race was on. A few people could stop early and knew their day was won. Others needed to press on and bang in some more good laps to try and gain or retain their standing. It was fascinating to see people who were clearly out on their feet somehow muster the energy to get back on that bike one more time and make it count. Awesome. Gemma Towell took some serious convincing by her pit crew to get back out there… but she did.

45nrthFinally 12 came round and the race was run. Some simply stunning performances had won the day. Away from the sharp end were oustanding achievments across the board. David Goddy from Jedburgh is a guy of similar fitness to myself so I’d expect a quarter to halfway through the pack finish. He had other plans though. Driven on by a charity close to his heart and his own steely resilience he bagged a top ten finish, smashing the ball clearly out of the park. Nic Gilbert is another one. He’s never going to win a 24 hour event but there’s some grit in there to hang on in for 24 hours and keep going to finish in the middle of the pack. Top, top effort.

The presentation was held at 12:30 and was well attended. Keith Fawcett tried to deny his team a podium finish in the male quads but Martin from Sportident was having none of it. Team JMC had a good showing, i-cycles blew the male quads and max laps clean out of the water with NIER doing the same in the mixed quads. Richard Rothwell won the male solo category and Naomu Frierisch the female. In the pairs Team JMC/USE Exposure took the title for males and the Disco Calves for the mixed team. Keith Forsyth took home the 45NRTH boots for a stunning fastest lap of 37:22.  A huge thanks to Team Cycles for the prizes and all the help and encouragement leading up to the day.  North East Cycleworks also need a mention for the amazing amount of brake pads they managed to change.

Whilst drinking that coffee outside Starbucks all that effort, all those meetings and endless planning and preparation somehow seemed worth it. To be part of a larger family for a couple of days and to witness the physical and mental strength of people was something special. It’ll take a few weeks and months to reflect on things and decide whether to run it again or not. Whatever happens, the Kielder Chiller 24 of 2017 was truly something special.

For further reading here are some other peoples blogs:

Cycling Generation’s Richard Rothwell

Naomi Frierich’s reflections

Team JMC Richie and Lisa

North East Cycleworks blog