Monday, 30 December 2013

Tour de Helvellyn

Well Christmas has been and gone, and TdeH seems a very long time ago, buried under the usual holiday festivities, but here at 'NAV4 Towers' I'm still fettling some stuff from the event and plotting and planning for next year....and been trying to write this.

Team Effort
Firstly, a very big thank you to you all; runners and staff.  It was a tremendous day not least for coping with some pretty grim weather and flooded paths.  An additional and very BIG THANKS to Keith and Pauline Richards, my good friends from Shropshire (Mercia Fell Runners) who were the mainstay of the Registration / Results and Cakes / All Things Kitchen departments respectively.   These two remarkable people do actually cover the work of a small team of people each.
Track from/to Side Farm - Patterdale CP2 and 7
There was also about a dozen other people out on the course or helping out at varous times, too many to mention at this stage ... but you will have all appreciated the massive contribution that Stuart Smith makes, not least up at Swart Beck (CP3).

(photo of Stu)

One other super hero to mention at this stage is Clare Holdcroft who pulled out early (wise move!) retreated to base under her own steam, and then spent much of the afternoon washing up.

Busy registration - Jill with young helpers

Linz, Keith and Pauline sweeping and mopping the hall...on Sunday Morning. (Yep, Day 4 as an organiser)

TdeH is programmed to be gnarly ... and it certainly was.   There are some great photos out there, and video footage of the flooded track to Side Farm. Trust me, it looked even worse at 0130 hrs on Saturday morning, but I knew our competent runners would manage the situation OK. We don't claim to be the toughest, nor do we promote our events widely, but believe word of mouth and our reputation are important factors. 

CP3 Swart Beck, Jim helping Stu's photography
CP3 Swart Beck - Moving well
CP3 - Bleak Moonscape

There was some impressive times being recorded at the sharp end and a very competitive 'race' evolved (results at the Sportident website of course) but from an operational point of view our energeries most go into make sure everyone is safe and looking after all runners.   So, well done to Ed and Tracey for their respective wins, and record in Ed's case, but equally so to everyone for completing the route. Or for using 'SMJ' (Sound Mountain Judgement) 'calling it a day', and short routing themselves or opting out rather than putting themselves and our team at risk.

Tougher than the Lakeland 50
We have a high success rate; even though it's 'tougher than the Lakeland 50' ...or ...'this is tougher than any ultra I've done'. Our high success rate is due to the high calibre of entrants who exhibit good self reliance skills. We don't nanny entrants and it is great to hear such compliments such as this.
'The best post race food EVER' - Pauline's cake display
Indeed, feedback suggests that the self-reliance element is what makes our events special. Or is it the Soup and Cake?

Our TdeH Soup is legendary - at all NAV4 Adventure events

Mistakes runners make? Don't play the 'Klitlistits game - trying to under cut the Kit List rules, and losing sight of what really matters, is a mistake at any time of year. The main objective is event completion, not a 'DNF' due to being cold, or creating an unsafe situation.
'You Were Right About Those Overtrousers' 

The vast majority of our entrants respect the nature of the event, terrain and conditions, and have no problem passing through our kit check.  Our kit check is real and good humoured, but we take it seriously.  All our checking team are very experienced runners and mountain leaders.  I've drawn up our Kit List after a great deal of thought based on my own experience of 35 years of events as a runner, kit checker and organiser.  I take the perspective of a runner and walker and that of a responsible organiser, without being 'jobs worthy' or OTT with the requirements.  The quote above was one of the most pleasing compliments I had all day!

Our NAV4 Adventure kit list does not change in the run-up to the event. It has always featured a Survival Bag as a requirement as a emergency blanket does not work on a windy rainy hillside. Please take a look at the fine selection from Needlesports, consider their views and buy yourself one now.   Other retailers are available of course...!  

Of course, the vast majority of runners (95% are well equipped) but it does get a bit galling when the fourth or five person tells me that there Pertex overtrousers are waterproof!  Don't get me wrong:  Pertex is a wonderful fabric, I spend most of my days, working outdoors in a pertex based jacket, and add a waterproof jacket only when I need too. In the right conditions pertex overtrousers are blissful; but there are not waterproof!

Equally, we had a few map 'offences' with regards to maps.   An electronic device is not a map - Simple. Secondly, a normal OS Outdoor Leisure Sheet is not waterproof, (prestine and fresh from the shop completely without any form of protection). So to stand on the start line, having declared yourself as a competent navigator with either of these items smacks of inexperience, lack of preparation or maybe down right rudeness.

Despite our excellent kit check and having a well equipped bunch of runners, we did treat a small number of people for mild hypothermia at the finish.  Hypothermia is the condition of having a low body temperature, induces by cold and wet conditions.  I'll be posting a further article on Hypothermia soon. .

It's not uncommon at many races to see a few people shivering with cold after they've finished. Usually, it's a case of just getting changed into warm dry clothes; hence it's the down jacket and woolly hat time sat with your mates in the pub.   At TdeH we witnessed several people finish the event and appear Ok, but then start to suffer as they didn't take immediate action to look after themselves. The mistake is to sit there and chill off, allowing the body and mind to switch off. After all, you've been working hard to keep warm for an hour or two (at least) and so now your in the nice warm hall you'll be Ok! Wrong - sitting it damp clothes is the worst you can do... I'd suggest that if you don't start warming up normally then you've probably been out too long, in too little clothes, and eaten too little.  No worries; it happens, is scary for you and your mates, but you'll learn from it.

First Aid Kit
Ok, Small rant nearly over, and whilst were are currently reviewing the event, we are considering whether there should be a First Aid kit on the list. So, if you have some constructive comments regarding this please let me know by email, or take a look at the NAV4 Adventure facebook page and post a comment.  First aid kits are a very personal thing, and you don't 'need' one ....until you need one. A bit like waterproof overtrousers!

Green is Good ...
NAV4 Adventure take a very green and ethical approach to all aspects of TdeH, from our 'No Plastic Cups at CPs' through through to the compostable soup bowls at the end. 

Photo: Brew and Go ... TdeH was a bit wet underfoot in parts!
Tea on The Go ... Bring a mug, drink on the move; good skills!
Even our choice of start / finish at Askham is a conscious choice to keep parked cars out of the central Lakes, and to boost the economy of the peripheral villages rather than the honeypots of Ambleside or Patterdale. 

A second car load of equipment going home.
In the great clear-up during Sunday morning I spent a wee while sorting out some rubbish bags, hence reducing landfill and increasing the amount of recyclables.

Have a think about this below?  You bring it all the way from a (urban) Tescos, then carry it around much of the course. So please drink it, or at least drain it away, then squash it, so I can recycle it appropriately?

Happy People
TdeH is a happy event, we keep it small, compact and friendly.  We like to keep it as a mountain runners event and shy away from much of the gloss of many ultras or trail races. Indeed, I don't like to use either of those words as certainly it isn't a 'trail run'. Well, not at that time of year!   Stuart also took a ruck of photos while up at Swart Beck CP3 so we'll have a sort through those before we post them on facebook.

Our Next Big Event - Lakes Mountain 42 - Sat 5th April 2014
Just a quick reminder that our next event in 2014 is the quietly spoken 'Lakes Mountain 42'.  This will be the second year of LM42, and runners enjoyed remarkable Spring conditions last year of stunning blue skies and snow capped fells.  This year the entry limit is just 100 runners with a discount available during January.  LM42 does require a light bit more navigational ability than TdeH, but only a bit, so one of our courses may be all you need to give you the confidence to enter.

The LM42 route is based from Askham, but climbs up the High Street ridge via Load Pot Hill to High Street itself, before descending to Patterdale. A run up Grisedale and around to Wythburn Church 'for lunch' ... (as someone remarked last year) preceeds a beauty of a climb up to Helvellyn summit.  Now,  the descent of Helvellyn is liable to change as we won't be using Swirrals Edge of the cornices are as big as last year, but whichever way you may go, 'afternoon tea and tiffin' will be served back in Patterdale, followed by the climb of Place Fell and a return via Martindale Church.  Tested and measured at 42 imperial Lake District miles, it is 'Do-able in the Day', and certainly for last orders, if not 'Dawn to Dusk'.   Entries are open now, with a limit of just 100 runners, so don't miss out.  Incidently, we'd previously run a 'Dawn to Dusk 100km' in late June 2012 but decided that the course wasn't as we'd like it so we re-vamped the route and date and LM42 was born instead!

NAV4 Adventure - Navigation and Hillskills Courses
We run a number of different navigation and 'hillskills' based courses, and offer One-One or small group tuition and coaching.  Full details of these are on the NAV4 Adventure website.  The most frequent is our One-Day 'Mountain Running Skills' course covering all you need to know to venture off the easier trails and into wilder terrain.  Our 'Mountain Running Essentials' is the original mountain marathon course, developed and refined over the past fifteen years.  It's a vitally important course for mountain marathon and Expedition Adventure Racers.   There is currently a 20% discount if you book a pair of places on 'MRS', and early discount on 'MRE' if you book before 1st Feb.

More soon ...  watch out for our new Swaledale event in September, too.