March 3rd – Trough Skyline
The now-classic, but rather gnarly, Trough Skyline run attracted 10 bats including one newcomer, Sophie Fosker, taking the total number of scorers on this year's league to 72, and the return of Grand Bat Paul Walsh, who's Achilles injury seems to have cleared up. Ian R and Sophie took a 20 min head start to avoid the 'cavalry charge' and Ian has penned the following report of the run from his perspective...
(I made) "A very heavy legged start; despite a steady jog up the track, once on to the fell the quads turned to mahogany, probably due to going into anaerobic oxygen debt / lactic build up. Sophie was obviously straining at the leash and once we had angled across to the fence, I suggested that she could jog up ahead and return to me as she pleased, using the fence as a handrail. She disappeared up that fence-line like greased lightning and it was a good 5 minutes later before I spotted the pin-prick of light from her Tikka, returning towards me afar off. Made me feel like a very inadequate old man. This was repeated all the way to the fence junction, when she gleefully returned to report that she had found the kissing gate some 100 yards ahead.
We stuck together at a brisk walk over the actual Top o' Blaze Moss and Sophie fell in behind me for the descent, claiming that she was cautious on descents. Once across the Trough she came past me, but I managed to hold station about 50 yards behind her until we crossed the fence at the wicket gate, where I took her well R of the fence and picked up the quad track that avoids all the hags and groughs along the fence. Once again she was running ahead then returning until we climbed into the really thick clag and she found the Tikka inadequate for picking up sketchy points of the track. We soon came alongside the fence again, but the easy angle indicated that the quad track had cut well inside the fence junction and we were now on the final couple of hundred yards to the summit. I was rather non-plussed to come across a kissing gate in the fence, I remember that it used to be a proper farm gate, and wondered if maybe we were still below the fence junction? A few seconds later, I glanced left and spotted the trig looming out of the clag, across the fence. We climbed the fence to touch the trig then re-crossed and followed the trod along the RHS of the fence.
My idea was that as Sophie was cautious in descent, it would be better if we maintained our lead and kept going. There was always the danger that I might get swept along on a cavalry charge descent and leave Sophie detached on the fell. Now hand holding the headtorches to cut through the clag, we hugged the fence all the way to the Ouster Rake gate before swinging R on the bridleway, which was not that easy to see in a few places but we always managed to relocate to it. Once through the Trough House ruins, Sophie's Tikka all but gave up the ghost and she swapped it for my AlpKit Gamma which she enthused about. As we set off again, a rear ward glance confirmed that the cavalry charge was on its way and we set forth with a will, making use of the field shortcuts across the loops of the track. At the road, no following lights could be seen and I switched off the Vision 2. We had a steady run down the road by the light of the Gamma and arrived at the vehicles still with no pursuing lights visible. IDR."
Meanwhile, the rest (initially 7) of us set off at 7pm and ran up the waterworks road before branching off up the rushy fell to pick up a fence climbing to Blaze Moss. A front group pressed on ahead, while Martin Walsh, John McHugh and I took a steadier climb, regrouping at the watershed fence. A light approaching from behind proved to be Steve Cox, once again arriving late and chasing (he loves it!). A stumbling traverse of the Top was followed by a brisk descent, dodging the bits of fencing wire that menace much of this run, and we were soon across the Trough road and on our way up Whins Brow. My recent statistical email brought accusations of anorak-hood from some quarters on this climb, but the accusers then donned their own cycling anoraks and started talking about videos of 'indexing your deraillieur' on YouTube... This was only interrupted when I made an unsuccessful attempt to surmount a peat hag and fell backwards, to be caught by Andy C, who then had to endure allegations of being a fell fondler in the mould of a certain other member of our club (initials DE) who is given to this sort of thing. AND, John Wade was once again on hand to witness the indiscretion. An uncanny nose for a whiff of scandal or what..?
Putting this slight discomfiture behind me, I pressed on for the top where we all arrived in about 56 mins. No sign of Ian and Sophie but they had been going for some 75 mins by this time and were probably already well down the descent.
It was misty on the summit and as Steve led off on the descent we hugged the fence, reluctant to commit ourselves to the maze of peat groughs that would have enabled us to cut the corner. It was very juicy along here and cold wet feet were the order of the day, even with Sealskinz on. At the point where we finally decided to make the short cut, a regrouping stop was called for as some had got left behind and when we resumed there was a small amount of er, disorientation, resulting in us reaching the Ouster Rake path almost right at the top, so we missed the short cut completely. As Ian mentions above, the path is a bit indistinct on this top section, but we managed to stay on it fairly easily and we soon dropped down to the fell gate where the charge down the lower tracks began. Since I was nursing a slightly sore calf muscle, I had promised myself that I would not do a mad finish this time (having made a habit of it over recent years) and I successfully kept to an easy trot all the way down to the road, at which point my headtorch began to begave strangely - switching itself off at random. Selecting the lower power setting seemed to solve it so I resorted to that.
By Sykes, my calf was developing a bit of a knot so I elected to walk in from there and was joined by Paul and Martin for a very relaxed finish!
We all retired to the Parkers Arms in Newton for a well-earned pint and we were joined in there by Gill, who was returning from Yorkshire and couldn't resist joining in the bat natter. Martin had the task of passing on the golden baton and elected to give it to Andy Crook, not for anything particular he'd done tonight but simply because Martin recalled other nights when he would have given the baton to Andy, if he'd been awarding it. A perfectly acceptable reason.
As usual, Adrian was a very genial host and, as usual, it was Martin, Gill and I who were last to depart for home. Another excellent bat night!
March 8th – Carwags Batbecue
Tuesday night's activities attracted 20 bats, who enjoyed a "normal" Carwags run plus a 'Batbecue' ably organised by Pam, who worked wonders in providing a veritable feast, with sausage butties (including veggie option), fried onions, cheesy jacket potatoes and cakes, all in quite blustery conditions. She's a miracle worker!
It being Shrove Tuesday, there had been a plan to have flambe pancakes (flambe? Yes, it was Duncan's idea...) but the man himself was absent on domestic duties so this didn't happen, even though Pam did have pancake mix with her and I had brought whiskey...
The runs produced a few new times, including a 33.55 from Richard Davies, a 34.44 from John McHugh (chipping off a few more seconds), a 43.51 from Sara Farmer, and a rapid duathlon in 65.55 from John Wade, despite being quite fatigued from his run at Black Combe on Saturday.
I was also still fatigued after suffering a mega hunger-bonk at Black Combe and just settled for an easy circuit with Gill. Shaun and Ruth Turner were with us initially but they gradually got ahead and we settled for an easy jog back to Carwags.
Once we were changed we joined the lively group feasting in the barbecue pit. The barbie was glowing merrily and there was a lively chatter going on and much food being consumed for a while but conditions were threatening. A cold blustery wind made it less than comfortable and when rain, (initially sleety!) gradually set in we all set about a rapid and efficient clear up then dived for the vehicles. I suppose you could say we just about got away with it!
There are now only two opportunities to reduce your Carwags time before the 2010/2011 league is archived for posterity.
March 10th Jubilee Tower
The Jubilee Tower run attracted a total of 12 bats but the need to accommodate a wide range of abilities and preferences resulted in three different starting points! The main group (just 4 of them - Andy Crook, Paul and Martin Walsh and Shaun Turner) set off as planned at 7pm and their route went via Grit Fell, Goldsworthy's installations, and Clougha Pike, returning across Hare Appletree Fell to Jubilee Tower. A rough and gnarly run of just over 5 miles.
Ian Roberts and Sophie Fosker elected to start from Stoops Bridge, Abbeystead, as Ian was unsure about parking at Higher Lee, and the rest of us (Pam and Andy Farmer, Sue Jones, Ruth Turner, Gill and I) drove down to Higher Lee and decided to risk parking in the entrance to the farm lane. There was plenty of room but we thought it might be slightly naughty. We had banked on a 15 minute head start but by the time we set off it was 6:55 so we knew we would not be making our planned rendezvous with the main group at the Goldsworthy sculptures.
As we set off, a car was coming out of the driveway of Higher Lee, and as the driver was closing the gate, Andy F approached her and using his best PR skills managed to get her permission for us to leave the vehicles where they were. I knew the skills aquired from years of wooing the Fiendsdale landowners would pay off in the end... ;-)
Our route was to be up the long shooting track to Cabin Flat, then round to the "installations" returning the same way. Runningahead.com makes this 6.7 miles (with an extra 1.7 miles for Ian and Sophie's start at Abbeystead). This makes the route look tougher than the main group's route but this is misleading. Their route is rough in complete contrast to the easy tracks of our route.
We set off up the track in cold windy conditions, with stars twinkling overhead, and made good steady progress up to Cabin Flat, by which time it was obvious the faster group would be long gone, then continued towards the installations. By this time, Sophie (though not Ian) had caught us and the enlarged group went on a short way before Gill and Andy F decided to return, having had a surfeit of good things. I pressed on with the girls to the objective, which everyone seemed suitably unimpressed with before turning and setting off back. It had taken us about 57mins to get here and we learned later that the faster group had been there about ten mins ahead of us.
Seeing our lights returning, Ian turned around and we were soon all back together, whereupon Ian suggested that Sophie and I went on ahead. This proved a good suggestion as I was aware that Gill would get back before me and would have no keys for the van so it was important to press on. We came down the long shooting track at a good pace, though chatting all the way (Sophie will have no trouble joining the fast group on future runs) and we were soon back down at Higher Lee (we'd been out for about 1:28). 5 mins later, Ian, Pam, Ruth and Sue returned and Gill and I then gave Ruth and Sue a lift back up to Jubilee Tower to meet Shaun, whilst Ian and Sophie continued to Abbeystead.
We all eventually got together in the Fleece at Dolphinolme where Andy Crook reported a disturbing event during their run. Paul had apparently tripped whilst running a few feet behind him and in falling forward had generated enough momentum to almost achieve a "debagging" of Andy. For once, John Wade was not on hand to witness this unsavoury incident but Shaun was. However, he showed commendable decorum in not making a fuss about it and for this display of courteousness, Andy has awarded him the golden baton and the attendant double points! This has carried Shaun above Ian R in the bat league.
March 15th – Carwags
A grey, misty, murky evening saw a slightly reduced turnout at Carwags (17) but the lengthening evenings now mean that darkness does not arrive until almost 7pm so most times set now will be treated as dusk times, not true purist bat times.... I can't blame people for wanting to get going and not hang about but a distinction must be drawn, even though the last of the light (probably without a torch on) can be the worst visibility of all. I've settled for letting the times stand in the bat categories but simply adding a note - 'dusk' - denoting that some glims of daylight were still available.
The challenge of the duathlon remains popular, with Steve C, Andrew K, John W and perhaps others I didn't see, all having another go at it. There certainly seemed to be a few bikes about in the twilight. John had a frustrating run, going wrong in the misty trees in Dewpond Wood (easily done) and so didn't improve on last week's time (64.10), but Steve and Andrew had storming runs, with times of 59.46 and 60.41 respectively. This makes Steve the first ever 'super-duo' bat (sub 1 hour). Well done Steve! Also, I think Andrew and Steve were both under 25 mins for the bike circuit, which beats the previous MTB "record" of 25.48, set last winter by Alasdair Harrison. Declan is now demoted to third in the duathlon league but you can never count him out... watch this space next week.
Speaking of Declan, he currently has a slight niggling injury and turned up at Carwags with his road bike. He did a road circuit in the local lanes but also included a timed blast around the one-way Beacon Fell perimeter road in 6.52. I will have to measure the distance but this seems a fast time for what is a short but quite hilly circuit. Perhaps this will become yet another speed challenge for Tuesday nights at Carwags!
Of the runners (remember them?!), Sara Farmer took yet another chunk off her time, reporting a 43.14, some 40 secs better. In doing this, she burned off her dad, though Andy still has a faster time from earlier in the winter (only 41 secs in it now though). Ruth took the opportunity (with a nudge from Gill) to run with husband Shaun and set a 50.10, her first posted time of the winter. She may yet take the odd seconds off this next week and join the Sportybats too.
It was Ian Cookson's <<censored>> birthday last night and he had a steady run to celebrate. He did casually mention that he had done an unreported 37.55 last week though, so I have added this into the league as it lifts Ian to his rightful place in the Speedybat category. Many happy returns Ian, I never realised you were such an, er.. elderly gent ;-)
As for me, I have ambitions to get under 37 before the end of the winter but going out to lunch and drinking two pints of beer put paid to my energy for having a crack at it on this occasion so I settled for a steady run round a slightly reduced circuit with Gill. Well, with Pam absent due to a school governer's meeting (though she did appear in the pub later for a social point) and Ruth time trialling, she would have been on her own...
So, there is now only one more chance to set a Carwags time for this winter, before it's back to Fell Foot Wednesday's and its altogether tougher time trial course!
Details of summer activities will be appearing soon.
Martin Walsh retains his stranglehold on the bat league leadership so we could now address him as 'Grand Bat Elect'. Pam is uncatchable as Grand Bat Chick but she still has ambition of overtaking current Grand Bat Paul Walsh for third overall. She would need a golden baton to do that though, provided Paul attends the last three runs, which seems very likely.
March17th – Roddlesworth
A pleasant, clear, moonlit but chilly night greeted the 15 bats who turned out to run the paths and tracks of Roddlesworth Woods and Darwen Moor. As well as the regular Bowland contingent, we were joined by new and occasional bats Adrian Hope, Paul Murray, Jason Tonge and (new Bowland member) Ian Charters. Pam Farmer and Gill Ponsford formed a second group who devised a route around the Roddlesworth reservoirs, whilst the rest of us did a six mile circuit, partly in the woods and partly over the moor.
Martin Walsh arrived uncharacteristically late, which surprised me as he'd been behind me on the Belmont road but then inexplicably went straight on when I turned left, ending up in Belmont village before returning. An attack of brain fade perhaps...
Setting off at 7pm, I led a downhill start into the woods and onto the Roddlesworth paths. We quickly dropped Martin and Paul W, which I found puzzling but when we regrouped Paul explained he'd had battery trouble and had to stop to swap head-torches. All, back together we headed over to Earnsdale Reservoir and then the waterworks roads led us up to the climb to Darwen Tower, which was taken steadily with some walking (it was for me anyway). Andy Crook and John McHugh particularly were going well and the group inevitably kept stringing out and having to regroup but it all worked perfectly fine and no-one was left behind.
From the tower, more good fast paths led across the edge of the moor towards Cartridge Hill and we were very soon at the gate and once again overlooking Roddlesworth woods. After regrouping, I anticipated a short bit of proper fellrunning on the descent and set off with glee, only to miss the rougher fell path which caused me to go galumphing over the tussocks to rejoin the group. Easy running then brought us down to the road at Slipper Lowe Car Park. This was our originally planned start point but the closed and locked barrier had put paid to that idea.
From here the rough descent of a stony track took us down into Tockholes No3 Plantation and then back up to the Royal after a very enjoyable 1:08 run.
Arriving back, we caught up with the girls, who's plan had gone slightly awry in the vicinity of Rake Brook Reservoir (the lowest of the three). They had run down to the Hare & Hounds pub OK but got confused after crossing the reservoir spillway and ended up returning by their outward route. Still a decent outing but not quite what they had planned. More reccying required!
After changing we retired to the cosy confines of the Royal Arms (complete with roaring fire!) and were joined by Andy Farmer, who had been unable to make it back (from Aldershot!) in time for the run but was determined to partake in the apre run social. For this he gets the now-accepted one point. Surprisingly, only the Bowland contingent appeared in the pub but it was a lively group of 12 who were rewarded with good beer from local breweries and two big bowls of chips (with dips), generously provided gratis by the landlord. We shall return to this venue!
The passing of the golden baton was the duty of Shaun Turner and he awarded it to Stewart (Blackfoot) Forsyth, a) because Stew had introduced him to BFR, and b) because, after his injury troubles, Stew needed the extra points! So, Stew now has the honour of awarding the last golden baton of the winter at next week's Fell Foot Finale. Tactics may enter into it....
March 22nd – The Final Carwags
It was another eventful night at Carwags, with a flurry of activity over the time trial courses. 20 bats turned out, with a fair few of them having a go at setting a final time and 5 succeeding. These were Gill Ponsford, Steve Harling, Declan O'Duffy, John McHugh and Matt Gallagher. Gill knocked almost half a minute off her previous time after being paced around the route by Pam and Ruth; she was actually 5 mins up at the first time over the crossroads but struggled thereafter. There is obviously more to come off the time next winter though, with slightly more even pacing! Steve Harling, having been seen running fast round the fell almost every Tuesday, finally decided to post a new time and took 35 seconds off his previous effort. Declan, having swapped the duathlon record with Steve Cox a few times already, timed his final effort to perfection and clocked a startling 58.34, to take back the record by 50secs and become the second 'super-duo bat'. His splits were impressive: 25.36 on the bike and 32.58 for the run. John McHugh (32.13) and Matt Gallagher (35.04) also clocked impressive run times but they were both returning to Carwags as I was heading out at about 6:45, still in twilight, so these must be considered daylight runs.....
The Dark/Dusk/Daylight Question: The first thing to say about this is that the whole speed-league thing is just a bit of fun, but since it is a bat league thing, with bat categories, the runs should ideally be done in darkness. Obviously, at this time of year, pesky daylight starts creeping back and makes true bat runs difficult. Therefore, I've had to apply some standards: A bat run takes place in full darkness and goes straight into the speed league categories. A dusk run may start in twilight but ends up in darkness. These go into the league but have the word 'dusk' added by the side of them. A daylight run may take place in twilight but never encounters full darkness (headtorch not essential). These are added to the league document but only as a footnote. Having said all this, the Carwags course is perfectly runnable in the dark, so there's not a lot of evidence that daylight (and especially twilight) is any advantage at all.
Of the other runners, some were seen checking their watches at the end of their runs but not posting times (it's not always possible to go faster!). I set off feeling quite good (under 9 mins to the summit fairly easily) but tired legs from the weekend soon caused me to ease off rather than pushing it for a PB. I was still well under 40 mins for what ended up a reasonably comfortable run for most of the route so I'm encouraged by that.
So, it's farewell to Carwags for another winter. It's been perhaps the most successful season of Tuesday runs ever, especially with regard to the time trials, the success of the duathlon etc. The Grand Tour has been completely neglected but Martin Walsh has inaugurated a new longer challenge that he calls his "figure of 88" - basically a double figure of 8, apart from not returning to Carwags in the middle. More details of this before next winter but Martin clocked about 1:08 for the route last night so a sub one hour challenge might be on the cards for some people. Also, there has been much talk of a challenge for road bikers, since Declan's 6.52 lap of the fell road. Steve Cox's suggestion is a challenge based on how many laps can be done in an hour. More details of this before the dark nights return. But first, the summer..!
The summer planner will be out shortly, and watch this space for details of an additional time trial challenge for Fell Foot Wednesdays.
Meanwhile, there is one more bat run left - the Fell Foot Finale on Thursday at 7pm. It's a 4-point special (8 points for the lucky Golden Bat).
March 24th – The Fell Foot Finale
It's all over! The 2010/2011 Bat League drew to a close on March 24th with 15 bats having a straightforward run in 'the homeland' of Parlick and Fairsnape Fells. Some just had a simple run up to Paddy's and back, whilst a group extended the run via 1707 and Saddle Fell. It was a perfect evening, mild and clear, with pretty much dry underfoot conditions. I was one of those who returned early and it was great to look back and see the lines of headtorches descending Parlick in the darkness.
On return to the cars, Pam produced a surprise; a batch of Bat Cakes, some of them personally decorated for individual, prominent bats. So, the leading Bat Chicks got a cake with a very glam looking feminine bat on it, Ian R (the 'Bishop of Bowland) had one with an ecclesiastical theme, Bat Central got one with "HQ" on it, Martin Walsh, the newly crowned Grand Bat was presented with one bearing a crown, and Stewart recieved a suspiciously large cake depicting a bat carrying a golden baton... talk about bribery... It had the desired effect though, with Stew unable to resist awarding the final golden baton to Pam. This would have had the effect of lifting Pam above Paul Walsh in the final standings but wasn't actually needed as Paul was surprisingly absent on this occasion.
A bunch of bats returned to the Tillies for refreshments but the Bat League trophy presentation will now take place next Wednesday after the first Fell Foot summer run.
This has been the most popular Bat League ever, with a total of 628 individual scores. It shares the largest number of runs (44) with last year but last year's total number of scores was only 509. The number of different people scoring this time (75) is also a record, beating last year's 68. So it could be said that the league continues to go from strength to strength.
A particularly encouraging thing about this year's league is the increase in participation by women. 14 scored on the league this time, easily beating the previous record of 10, and it was more competitive too, Pam Farmer scoring 100 points (the first woman to reach double figures) and finishing 3rd overall (the highest ever) to win the Bat Chick title. Gill Ponsford made a very good fist of her first season of taking part in what can be a daunting and eccentric activity (well, what else would you call winter night fellrunning), achieving an excellent 7th overall and Bat Chick runner up, and Ruth Turner's recent consistent attendance was rewarded by her sneaking past Beverley Wilkinson in the final week to take the third Bat Chick spot.
As previously mentioned, Martin Walsh achieved the Grand Bat title after a brilliantly committed and consistent winter, taking over from his brother Paul, who was cruelly hampered by a mid-season injury, and of course his ineligibility for golden bat points, being the sitting Grand Bat. Meanwhile Bat Central, as befits his office, was close (4 points) behind Martin. Only his fondness for sunning himself in the Canaries for a week every November torpedoed his challenge for top spot.
New bat John McHugh had a great first season to finish 5th overall and he set a string of startling new PBs on the Carwags Speed League en-route. Andy Farmer was hampered by injury (and work!) and finished 2 points behind John in 6th place. Behind Gill in 7th, Ian Cookson quietly amassed points all season to finish 8th, and the top ten was completed by John Wade and Keith Denver who are always there or thereabouts.
Of the other, part time bats (ahem), special mention must go to Shaun and Ruth Turner, who made a late start but have been very consistent in the second half of the season. Shaun finished in 15th place, level on points and runs with declining-bat Duncan (only failing to overtake the club's chief arsonist because of the vagaries of the alphabet) and Ruth overtook Beverley to climb into the top 20. Lee Dowthwaite also deserves a special mention; our illustrious club official, previously a very occasional bat, suddenly caught the Carwags bug and was a very consistent attendee on Tuesdays in the second half of the winter, finally ending up in 21st position - as he said, his highest ever position in the league!
It is difficult to know who else to mention, there have been so many highlights this winter; Declan O'Duffy and Steve Cox for their competitive swapping of the Carwags duathlon record, with Andrew Knowles running them close much of the time, Debbie Cooper, for her rapid improvement on the Figure of 8 (first woman under 40 mins), Marc Laithwaite, for becoming the first to break the 30 minute barrier, and Luke Gregson and Josh Wilkinson, for proving that there is a new generation of bats coming through.
Next winter, new challenges we are planning will add even more facets to the vibrant, competitive yet social marvel that is the Bowland Bat League!
This is Bat Central, signing off until the darkness returns...