Sunday 18 September 2022

Hathersage 20 miler

 With an extra bank holiday for Monday, I felt that I could afford to get a bit extra tired today. I'm hoping to do some more long runs in the (near) future so in my very casual training plan there's a ned to get some longer training runs under my belt. The Cuckoo Way was certainly completed with too little training and I think I was lucky to achieve my goal. Another day I might not be so fortunate. 

A circular trip to Hathersage from home is around 30km which is 50% more than my traditional Saturday run so this felt to be perfect. On the way out I discovered a permissive path to  the south of the Redmires reservoirs which avoids around 1.5km of rather dull tarmac. The old byway to Stanedge Pole and beyond is mostly runnable as the gradient is fair and the stones not too sharp. It gives a great view of the Kinder plateau in the distance.

It's an easy and picturesque descent into Hathersage although I was just in time as the course was laid out for the Fat Boys Stanage Struggle and competitors were jogging up to the start area. A little later and I would have been swept back uphill.

After coffee and half a flapjack I headed for home via Mitchell Field, Higgor Tor and Oxstones. Much of the ascent had to be walked! Altogether there was just over 800m of ascent so not too trivial. Close to home my legs were very heavy and again the pace dropped. I'm happy that even with a cafe stop my pace was below 8:30min/km.

Wednesday 14 September 2022

New GPS phone

Just over 6 years ago I wrote a series of entries about using a budget smartphone with Viewranger as a mapping GPS tool. I bought a fair few tiles of offline maps for UK, Spain and Tenerife and found it to be a great tool. My waterproofing was a freezer bag and as I try to avoid being out in foul weather this worked well, although on occasion I moved  the phone inside my waterproof jacket. 

I had no need to change system as it was self contained and with adequate power and space. An 8GB SD card seemed to be practically limitless. Unfortunately Viewranger were bought up by Outdooractive and so the app and tiles became obsolete in February 2022. There is plentiful online debate about the problems with the Outdooractive app, much of which I disagree with. However it does need more resources and the closure of the Viewranger server means that fresh tiles can't be bought. My old Alcatel phone GPS works fine as is but can't have fresh maps if I travel to a new area. The Android 4.4 operating system means that it won't run the OS app either. I tried an old spare Moto phone with opensource OruxMaps but once again, the processor wasn't able to cope. 

So I was back to considering Garmin hardware, opensource maps, IP68 sealed Android phones and so on. The nominally waterproof smartphones appear to fall into two categories. First are top of the range phones from major brands at a price that I wouldn't want to fall out of a pocket. Second are Chinese Android brands which have fair specifications but very mixed reviews. I almost committed to a Ulefone Armor 10X Pro at around £160 but the price was a bit more than I wanted and there are those dubious reviews....

Eventually I settled on a iPhone SE (2016) with 32GB storage from BackMarket for £65. The phone is low spec by today's standards but with a 4 inch screen it's little larger than the Alcatel and actually a fair bit more powerful. Importantly it can run iOS15 which is fairly contemporary, it will not run the recently (September 2022) released iOS16. Due to the massive sales of the iPhone SE/5S there are a range of supposedly waterproof cases available and I went for a Punkcase Extreme for around £20.

I still have free access to Outdooractive Pro+ so that's my current offline map provider but hopefully this phone will give me more flexibility of provider in the future, including the mapping that comes when you buy a paper OS map.

The 'refurbished' phone is in great condition and has reportedly 91% battery health. This was my biggest concern about a used phone, would it need a new battery straight away and would that be any good anyway?  After a few runs and hikes it appears that I can leave Outdooractive tracking for at least 5 hours and that it lasts for longer without live recording. The GPS shows a lock promptly even without tracking so it must be live when the phone is sleeping. As before I don't have a lock on the phone but it must be activated by two presses on the home button. This seems to be baked into iOS and I can't find a way to wake from sleep with the top button which is less than ideal.

The camera is usable and takes fairly good pictures although the HDR mode is rather to saturated for my taste. This might mean that I can save the weight of a camera but taking pictures uses a fair bit of battery life. I suppose this is mostly due to extra screen backlight usage.

Sunday 11 September 2022

Peak Raid 3 #1 North Kinder

It's a few years (actually a few more than I thought) since I last tried one of these fell- based orienteering events. I suspect that I'm inherently cautious and reluctant to leave my comfort zone. However I do like a challenge and the combination of a new location and some navigation makes for a good morning's exercise. 

The start was a good trek up from the parking. Apparently this half hour was going to be in the event but the organisers felt that runners would be unlikely to finish in time. The ascent revealed the remains of an inversion and mist on some peaks. To the north of the A57 the moor was wet but passible. There were few paths but the checkpoints were fairly easy to find on a bearing although progress between them was slow for me and some other runners in a similar schedule.
After crossing the road the terrain was steeper and the checkpoints scattered on and below the edge of the Kinder plateau. I picked a route that looked manageable both physically and in complexity with the mist now blanketing the area. Two checks needed a tough ascent and then there was an obvious route to the finish.

I managed to squeeze in a check which was close to the path. During the descent there was an option of a check but as I wasn't sure of it's position in the mist I decided to miss it and hopefully avoid a time penalty.
I finished with a few minutes in hand and mid-placed in the field. I'm amazed that some competitors managed to reach all points. I walked most of the 14km of my route but running the majority of it is unimaginable to me. Their navigation must be fast and accurate too!

Monday 1 August 2022

Reverse magnetised

A few weeks ago I saw that the compass that travels daily in my rucsac had become reverse magnetised. Luckily I was in a field and could compare with my watch and the sun. It might have been more serious on a hillside.
Apparently this is quite common now and believed to be due to the strong magnets in the speakers of the devices we carry. Certainly I often carried the compass next to a mobile phone and camera.
I've read that Silva will remagnetise the needles so I've sent them an email. Although I understand the theory I'm not going DIY as it seems like an accident waiting to happen.

Saturday 9 July 2022

Post-Covid run

A week after completing the Cuckoo Way I had COVID. There was a headache, then a cough and ultimately feeling rotten. It took 2 weeks for a negative LFT result and some more days until I my chest felt normal.
I don't think the infection was related to the long run, more probably the outbreak at work. At least I get paid sick leave.
This morning I decided I was fit enough to try a short run and headed to the woods. I took it very easy but was relieved not to experience any ill effects, save a lack of training.
Hopefully things will be fine tomorrow.

Incidentally, the only after effect of the Cuckoo Way is a single black toenail. 

Saturday 11 June 2022

The Cuckoo Way

Today I walked/ran the length of the Chesterfield Canal from West Stockwith to Chesterfield. The night before I stopped at a hotel in Gainsborough and this morning took a taxi to the start so as not to add 7 miles to an already long journey. I was fortunate in having a dry summer's day which was not too hot. 

A schematic map of the canal from

This plan meant that I was 'self-supporting', either carrying what I wanted or nipping off to local shops for water and snacks. My rucsac was around 4.5kg in weight, including a change of clothes for last night and in case I had to overnight in Worksop. My overall pace was 09:18 min/km which I believe counts as a run as it's faster than a typical walking speed. Between 10 and 15 km I felt at my best and hit a heady 7 mins/km, around 50km I was strolling. 

The video/slideshow has an image taken each kilometre (roughly) of the route which gives a good impression of the scenery.

After previous experiences I made quite an effort to have sips of water/electrolyte but I was still dehydrated at times. I was able to buy or refill water bottles along the route and I estimate drinking over 3 litres. This time my problem was a lack of food. I'd failed to buy decent items for my early breakfast so set off on an empty stomach. That was fine for a few hours but after half way I found the items I was carrying/bought unappetising. I bought an onion bhaji & mango chutney sandwich from the Co-op and that really helped me along.

At the 50km mark I was disappointed with my lack of pace but notwithstanding the food issue, I was also saving a bit of energy for the last 20km. On my first 50km I had nothing left when I finished and clearly that wouldn't have been useful today. It was also quite demanding to be on my own. Although  I could set my own pace there was no-one else to try to keep up with, chat to, stay ahead of, or any of the other strategies that can encourage a bit of pace from a tired body.

Ultimately it was very satisfying, especially that the journey home on the train was trouble-free.

Take a look at Carl's video for a more in-depth report of the path.

Saturday 14 May 2022

Ongoing running recovery

I've now had a few months of doing one or two runs each week alongside commuting walks and a weekend hike. As usual I'm not getting any faster but 20km distance is becoming more comfortable. The downside is that I've not swum since Christmas.

In early summer I'm planning a long hike or informal ultra so need a strong base. The route is about 75km with little ascent so is theoretically possible as a slow run in 12 hours or 2 good days of walking. There's a decision to be made around packing as I must plan my pack sensibly if I'm running.

Currently my UltraAspire pack is at Alpkit for a repair. It's only a little defect but it made sense to take it in with a trouser repair.
I'm practicing with my Lowe 22 litre rucsac and have done a few slow runs successfully. Today the weight was 3.3kg but I really needed a few more things in it. I don't fancy a heavier bag.

Saturday 22 January 2022

Gradual return

 Since November I've been returning to running. At first the usual circuit of the woods and then to the old haunts of Oxstones and Porter Clough. Today I combined these into a great 10 mile run, or perhaps more accurately a run-walk, through the Porter Valley and up to Oxstones. Just for good measure I came home via God's Spring  and Houndkirk Hill (Tor). The pace was modest but it was good to be out for a few hours in the sunshine.