Saturday, 13 August 2016

A glass of wine with Lou Roberts

FRB - Lou, this time last week, you were celebrating the win at the Borrowdale Fell Race, which has the reputation of being perhaps the hardest fell race of the year. With it being an English Championship race this year you must be really pleased to have won it.

Lou - I can't quite believe it! I am so pleased and surprised to have won.

FRB - We at FRB are particularly impressed with this win Lou, as you have always told us you don’t like rough terrain and you don’t like tough descents, Borrowdale is full of rough, tough descents. Look, you even beat Nichola Jackson by nearly ten minutes, Nichola has the reputation of being a demon descender, Nichola won the prize for the fastest descent at Black Combe, the first Championship race this year back in March.
Lou at Windy Gap - photo by Lee Procter

Lou - I was telling the truth! I don't like long races and I'm rubbish at rough descents!  Unfortunately, I seem to be better at the longer races. That doesn't mean I'm going to be doing any more of them, I'll just do the ones that I have to for the champs races!

FRB - Did you enjoy the race!? You told us at FRB a few weeks ago that you were dreading it beforehand.

Lou - Um... I liked finishing it!! It's really hard to say whether I enjoyed it. If anyone out there is like me and is a rubbish descender, they'll know that you have to be a long way ahead at the top of any climb to actually beat anyone else, so even though I was in the lead all of the way, Borrowdale finishes with a really long descent so I was running scared for the whole race!!!

FRB - Did you have a race strategy?

Lou - Just try as hard as I could on the climbs. I knew if I was still in the lead when we reached Styhead, I had a chance.

FRB - Did you feel confident before the race?

Lou - No! I wasn't sure that I had got enough long runs in!!!

FRB - The last time Borrowdale was a championship race was in 2012, the last Olympic year ironically, and in fact, on Super Saturday! The 2012 Borrowdale race was won by Jasmin Paris in 3:32:03, so your time of 3:26:09 for 2016 is pretty impressive. We all know what Jasmin Paris is capable of! (having taken almost 3 hours off the ladies record for the very rough long distance Bob Graham Round this year). What sort of time were you hoping for this year?

Lou - I honestly wasn't bothered about my time, all I was interested in was winning the vets!!

FRB - What is the fastest time that you have done Borrowdale in (and what year)?- Or is this your fastest time?

Lou - The last time I did Borrowdale was 1998 and I won in 3.46, so this year is my fastest time!!

FRB - Did you know you had built up quite a comfortable lead over Nichola Jackson (2nd), Sharon Taylor (4th) and Sophie Horrocks (3rd)?
Lou (349) with Sharon Taylor (383) and Nichola Jackson at the start of the Borrowdale photo by Norman Berry

Lou - When I was descending down the corridor route, Dave Ward told me that he was at Scafell Pike with Nichola so I knew she must be close behind me as she is a much better descender to me. Apart from that, I had no idea!!

FRB - Did you get moral support from the male runners around you?

Lou - Weirdly, I ended up running around with 2 club mates (John Rylance and Dan Goulding) that I don't know very well but who were both really encouraging and helpful!

The best bit was going through Honister - there were so many people out supporting and I had so many offers of drinks, it was like being at a high altitude bar!! Unfortunately, nobody offered me any Blue Wkd!!

FRB - I bet lots of people were congratulating you after the race, was there anything that anyone said to you that particularly stood out?

Lou - To be honest, I was so pleased to have Hazel (Robinson) collecting dibbers at the end of the race and giving me hugs and was so thankful to have Astrid (Gibbs) out on the course handing me drinks and the first person that texted me was Jane (Reedy). It has been great to have done well individually this year but it's not the same as running with your team mates and close friends. For various reasons, all 3 have not been able to run this year so it meant so much to me to have all 3 of them supporting me in whatever way they could! 

FRB - How did you celebrate the win, Did you have a few bottles of your favourite tipple, Blue Wkd?

Lou - We went out for a pizza with Vic and Darren!

FRB - You’ve had such a busy year / running season so far let’s go through it…..(we’ve put your position in bold.)
  • Black Combe (English and British Championship) (March) 5th
  • Donard Commedagh (British Championship) (April) 3rd
  • Up the Nab (English Championship) (May) 3rd
  • Inter counties - Moel Elio - (May) 2nd
  • European Mountain Running Championships Trials - Whinlatter  (May)- 7th
  • Pedol Cwm Pennant (British Championship) (June) 1st
  • Snowdon Twilight (June) 1st
  • Representing England at the Snowdon International Race (July) 4th
  • Sedbergh Sports (English Championship) (July) 12th
  • Representing England at the British Athletics Mountain Running National Championships (incorporating the World Championship Trial  (Uphill) and Senior Home Country Internationals  Skiddaw (July) 8th

And with the win at Borrowdale you must feel like you’ve been gauging the training well, Can you give us some idea of what kind of training you are doing? Gym? Speed training, Hills or is it all just jogging with Mayzi the Dog?

Lou - I was training with Jane at the start of the year doing a couple of speed sessions a week and have managed to carry on doing one speed session a week all year. (I'm absolutely rubbish at any speed work so thought I would try and improve this year) Other than that, I've just been doing a lot of work on the hills! Mark has helped a lot this year and has been really supportive which helps loads!!
Lou descending towards Honister (Norman Berry)

FRB - And we know there’s no rest for you yet? What’s the next? 

Lou - I'm currently in the Alps putting in some last minute training for the World Vets in Italy. We have a really strong V40 British team with Kirsty Hall and Julie Brisco so I'm super excited for it. I've been aiming for this all year so just hope I run okay!!

After that, I've got Merrick to do as I have a chance of winning the British Champs but if Heidi goes the right way, she should win easily! Then there's Langdale (another long race I'm dreading!!) to finish the English Champs! And also, my favourite events of the whole year - the relays. Our Ladies team may have not featured a lot at the champs races this year but I am confident that we will have strong teams out to both the Hodgson Brothers Relay and the British relays in Scotland!!

FRB - Let’s just remind everyone, you were Fellrunning’s English Champion in 2003 and 2004 and British Champion in 2002 and 2003 so we shouldn’t be surprised that you have found a fantastic return to form this year, however it doesn’t stop us from being very pleased for you. Well done Lou and good luck at the World Vets! 
Lou collecting her trophy for winning Borrowdale 2016, from Scoffer and Billy Bland

Wednesday, 22 June 2016

A chat with Helen Berry

Helen Berry at the World Long Distance Mountain Running Championships - photo Mark Croasdale
Last weekend, the World Long Distance Mountain Running Championships were held in Podbrdo, Slovenia. Nine familiar fellrunners were selected to represent Great Britain mainly following brilliant performances at the Three Peaks, this year's trial race.

The race was tough, really tough, I don't know whether comparing it to doing the Ben Nevis Race twice and then adding another 6 miles would be a fair description....but here's the profile; 2800m of climb over 42km (or 9000ft over 26 miles).

The GB teams put in some brilliant performances; for the men, Tom Owens 4th, Ricky Lightfoot 6th, Andy Davies 9th, Karl Gray 12th and Rob Hope 16th brought them a Team Silver Medal behind Italy.

And for our women, Annie Conway came from 5th place 2hrs and 45mins into the race to 2nd place with 5k to go, to an outright win! Backed up with Victoria Wilkinson in 14th place, Helen Berry in 18th and Helen Bonsor in 23rd, giving the women the Team Bronze Medal.

I managed to have a chat with Helen Berry about the race today. I asked her how she had prepared for the race, and how hard it was. I also asked her how she reacted when she found out Annie had won and what was it like being on a podium. So if you want to find out what she on!
Helen Bonsor, Helen Berry and Vic Wilkinson - photo by Mark Croasdale


"There was only six weeks after the selection race, so there wasn't much time to get too many more long runs in, especially by the time I'd had a week's rest and then allowed for tapering for the actual race.
However, I already had three months of distance training under my belt, so it was just a case of continuing with my mileage and hill sessions while keeping fit and well (avoiding anyone who had a cold!). I'm certainly grateful for the knowledge and advice I received from Holmfirth Harriers' endurance coach, Kath Farquhar. I followed her training plans to the letter!"

The Race

"The race itself was hard, but I knew it would be. It was going to be an extra 30 minutes further than my longest race to date, so I had prepared myself both physically and mentally.

I knew I had to keep something in reserve for the second climb, it was going to be brutal but I kept my head down and got on with it. I managed to catch about five women on that climb which reassured me that I had paced it well. The support at the feed stations was fantastic and I was surprised by how many people were at the ski station at the top of the second climb which gave me a real lift as I headed off the top for the final descent. The views, when I had chance to look around, were stunning. Race day was the best weather-wise of the whole weekend, so the mountain tops looked beautiful in the sunshine and I enjoyed the race (I can't say that about all races!)."

Did you know you were on for a medal?

"I was really chuffed to arrive at the finish line having felt pretty good all the way round, and managed a smile heading over the line. I knew we were on for team medals, as Mark Croasdale was at the village in the valley just before the second climb and let me know we had a chance - which also made me push every single step up that climb; no pressure!
Vic Wilkinson, Helen Berry, Helen Bonsor and Annie Conway by Mark Croasdale
At that point, I didn't know how Vic and Annie were doing, only that I was in about 21st place (which someone shouted as I passed) and that I was ahead of Helen Bonsor. That was the first I knew of my position. The team places were calculated on aggregate time, so we weren't sure of the result for a while."

And what about Annie's win?

Annie Conway on the World Champion's podium photo by Mark Croasdale

"I learnt of Annie's win as soon as I'd finished. I was really happy for her! It really added to the day and made the prize giving really special for the GB team. I couldn't stop smiling for Annie when she was up on that podium. With her win, a bronze for us, and silver for the men with them packing so well, it was great day and medals all round!
It was a memorable weekend and fun to be part of such a great GB team."

What's next Helen?

"Now it's a rest week (hopefully the DOMS will ease in the coming days!) and I've got three weeks before the next British race at Sedbergh. Then it will be the rest of the Champs series throughout the summer as well as a couple of local fell races"
 Thanks for chatting Helen, well done and good luck for the rest of the season.

More photos from the day by Mark Croasdale