Pen yr Ole Wen 1 – Vegan 0

With 6 weeks to go to the Vegan Carneddau and no real improvement in my shoulder it seemed about time to try myself out, I’ve never actually walked or run to the top of a mountain before. We had already booked a couple of nights B&B in Betws y Coed for a break and had been jammy enough to get some wonderful sunny weather. So after a long mornings drive then vegan pastie and chips at the Alpine Coffee Shop Jane dropped me at the east end of Llyn Ogwen with instructions to pick me up in 3 hours allowing me time to find my way up Pen yr Ole Wen and back, maybe with a leg out to Carnedd Dafydd thrown in if I was making good time. I had brought a choice of trail shoes and light showerproof or boots and proper coat, it was warm at the bottom but I could see a couple of patches of remaining snow up there so went for the boots and coat.

East of Pen yr Ole Wen

The way up

I’d plotted on Garmin and map what I understood to be the easier but longer way up, following Afon Lloer up the east of Pen yr Ole Wen then following a path left round to the south to reach the summit. It turned out to be pretty boggy by Afon Lloer with no clear path but marking posts and steps over walls showed the way quite clearly at first. It was of course all uphill and pretty soon I was regretting bringing my coat as the sweat flowed. I took it off and carried it under my good arm, tied my fleece round my waist and slowed the pace reminding myself that the hard work was yet to come.

Llyn Ogwen and Tryfan behind

Llyn Ogwen and Tryfan behind

One of the marker posts had fallen so I stuck it back in it’s hole. They ran out after 40 minutes or so but I could make out a sort of path leading to the rocky bit below the summit and was still on the course I’d loaded the Garmin with. I wasn’t in sight of the small lake, Ffynnon Lloer, snuggled near the top yet but remembered a route description had cryptically stated the need to bear left before you could see the lake. I continued on to the start of the rocks where it was fortunately a bit cooler with altitude as I had to put my coat back on to free up my good arm.

Still looks like a path

Still looks like a path

I picked my way up what seemed to be a steep path over rocks and grassy bits but soon found my way blocked by some larger slabs resting at a quite steep angle. I thought I could see a level bit not far up that could well be the path but there was no way I was going to get past these without a bit of what’s know as a scramble and that wasn’t going to happen with my lack of experience and only one arm working properly. Turning round to retrace I was reminded that I don’t like heights, particularly where the footing is not secure – I pushed that phobia back into it’s hiding place where it was quickly forgotten as I took in the view.

Pen yr Ole Wen view eastI retraced a bit but couldn’t see any obvious path further south so decided to ignore the Garmin and continue towards Ffynnon Lloer to look for a way up I could manage. Perhaps that hadn’t been the correct path and it was a little further on, there were no shortage of false tracks. It was an hour since I set off and I’d not seen anyone since leaving tarmac – not exactly a multitude of walkers to tread a clear path. The little lake was pretty and it was a great place to have to myself. The continual wall of loose rocks towering to my left didn’t offer much promise though. I tried a couple of possible paths but they tapered to nothing, one got so steep that I ended up sliding part way back down on my bum as the vertigo gremlin tried to crawl back out his hole.

A week and a bit of research later and it seems I’d failed to find the proper route though looking at a couple of videos of the scramble I still wouldn’t have got up there without 2 good arms.

Ffynnon Lloer

Ffynnon Lloer

 

Not that way either

Not that way either

I continued round the lake to the shallower looking slopes below Carnedd Fach but really knew it was time to admit defeat. If I couldn’t gain the first summit walking in perfect conditions I wasn’t going to be up to running the Vegan Carneddau with a further 6 peaks. I reckoned I had another 30 minutes maximum before I needed to start back down so decided to follow a clear path up from the lake to a big rock I could see a bit before what looked like another yet more loose rock. Getting closer I could see that with sufficient skill, strength and limbs it might be possible to gain the ridge this way but it wasn’t for me. Time to give up!

Ffynnon Lloer from above

Ffynnon Lloer from above

Time to go back down

Time to go back down

Download from Garmin

Where I actually went – download from Garmin

 

 

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Another Personal Worst at the Oxford parkrun

Recently I’ve taken a new angle on parkrun. In the past it has always been a fast effort, a race, a tempo run or whatever. As both weather and body have been less than perfect I’ve felt much less competitive about it realising that dragging myself to the start for a slow run towards the back end of the field can still be rewarding. The fact that the nagging ache in my shoulder usually gets me out of bed early helps as the alternative of a pleasant Saturday morning lie-in isn’t on offer.

So a week ago Saturday I plodded round in filthy conditions, snow and sleet from above, real slippery mud below, to a personal worst of 28:09 20th of 32 which is less than half the usual field. I hung my cycling overshoes off my handlebars for the run and they must have filled with snow as by the time I got home both feet were freezing and I found the overshoe toes packed with blocks of ice – they took ages to defrost and felt really unpleasant ๐Ÿ™ย  I was taking it easy as I planned to trot up to Shotover, run the Resolution Run 10k, and jog back home on the Sunday but the Resolution Run got postponed due to the conditions (though I ran up there anyway).

Gratuitous close-up of Honey taking a nap

Gratuitous close-up of Honey taking a nap

This Saturday’s parkrun I was to be even slower at 29:30 61st of 77 runners but it was very much a planned recovery run, in fact I set out too fast and would have been better going even slower but it’s hard with other runners all about you. On Friday I had run (mostly) 15 hilly miles – the furthest since last October I think – to try myself out for the Compton 20 next week. It was a bit slow, averaging just over 11 minute miles, and various bits started hurting towards the end. Good enough for me to have the confidence to try for a 4 hour trot round Compton next week if the weather isn’t foul again – I’d be happy with that considering!

Wobbly Image of a Prism

Wobbly Image of a Prism

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OX5 Run 2013

It was a sign of my diminishing fitness that I wasn’t much looking forward to cycling all the way out to Woodstock and back – a round trip of 24 miles – to run the OX5 Run at Blenhiem Palace. A few years ago I would happily cycle there just to the start of a 200k Audax, 12 years ago my 4 times a week commute was longer than that. Oh well!

Anyway the forecast said it would be cold and what with an increasing 15 mph north-easterly wind gusting to 30+ it would feel even colder. I wrapped up well for the ride out, getting quite toasty with the effort and all my layers and overshoes and winter hat and gloves on. The traffic was backed up to the Bladon roundabout and struggling to park in muddy fields so I congratulated myself for bothering to cycle. I’d allowed 30 minutes to orientate myself, peel off my layers and have a warm-up jog. I watched the official Zumba warm-up again but wasn’t tempted though a bit of music was nice.

It was so cold in that wind though. Soon enough I was back at my bike putting everything back on again I was that cold. My frozen shoulder throbbed through the layers of painkillers as it doesn’t like being double frozen. I wandered further into the Blenhiem estate to shelter behind a hedge and found Stuart, Phil and a couple of other IWCA members also tucking themselves away out of the wind. I chatted with other familiar local faces then wandered back towards my bike in time to hear the start had been delayed 30 minutes to allow the cars to park. The forecast had said it would feel even colder as the wind increased and it was dead right. I considered just getting on my bike and riding home, why I didn’t go in the cafe and have a cuppa I don’t know.

11am and at last we were off at last to the sound of an air-horn wielded by Raymond Blanc. My VRUK vest invisible beneath a fleece I decided to keep wearing though I did strip down to shorts. It was great to get going but the start was total chaos as many first timers were understandably confused which direction we were to start in and their efforts to get near the back put them right near the front. I started halfway down the field and spent much of the first, and consequently slowest, mile passing walkers and runners while faster runners passed me in turn.

There was some great fancy dress and teams of charity runners and the course is through some pretty parkland so soon enough I was warming up and glad to be there. I felt slow though and didn’t plan to push myself so just enjoyed the run, I was far enough back not to be passed by all and sundry. We went north round the lake then turned south for a bit of tailwind back towards the palace. Then continued round the lake past a gate with a ‘Please Close Gate’ notice we had laughed at when walking here at Xmas, the message made more sense now as it was attached to fencing.

Blenheim gate

‘Please Close Gate’ sometime around Xmas

Then up a short hill which felt like a big hill followed by a good descent through woodland, all on smooth paths, and a last down then up to cross the Glyme – this last bit straight into that wind. I was glad to finish and my 44:43 was as good as expected despite being almost 7 minutes slower than last time I ran the OX5 in 2011. I was 309th of 958 runners – the great thing about these fun runs is you can be slow and still finish in the first half. The ride back was exhausting and I foolishly failed to refuel properly so bonked pretty thoroughly. Glad I did it though and have just entered yet another March charity run – The Resolution Run 10k trail race up Shotover where I’d no doubt have been running anyway on the 24th ๐Ÿ™‚

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Vegan Runners UK

I joined Vegan Runners UK as my 2nd claim club this week, should have done this a while back being as I’ve been a vegan and a runner for several years now. VRUK were formed quite recently, in 2004, but they are growing and active and doing a great job of promoting the healthy vegan lifestyle. I plan to continue running in VC&AC colours in the main but it’s good to have the option of running in the distinctive green and black Vegan Runners shirt at events where VRUK have a presence – and of course it’s always important to stand up and be counted.

Vegan Runners are pretty good at getting the cruelty free running message over using internet publicity and communication, here are some links:

Vegan Runners UK Webpage
The Vegan Runners UK Blog
Vegan Runners UK on facebook
Vegan Runners on the veganfitness.net forum

I did some daft cartoons – click on them to view full size.

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