English National XC Race

On Saturday I traveled down the M1 to Donnington Park for the Saucony English National Cross Country Championship Race. This race was to be my 12th and final cross country race of the 2015/2016 season.

This was by far the biggest race, in terms of club only runners, I have ever done and what a spectacle it was. Arrived nice and early and took in the atmosphere. We met up with my office buddy Chris Miller (Harrogate Harriers) and had a look around at the stalls and watched the earlier races.

me and chris

Race time soon came round and following a good warm up and drills I made my way to my starting pen. I was joined by approx. 2000 senior men on the starting line, the line was 150m long and the starting straight to the first corner was approx. 800m. I have watch a few National XC starts on YouTube but to experience one is a totally different matter. Following the starting horn there was a massive charge down the field and I wanted to shout FREEDOM!

The race consisted of three laps (two laps for the senior ladies) with each lap being 4km (12k or 8 miles total). The first half of each lap was dry and spikes dug in nicely and made for fast racing, the second half was typical cross country mud which was sticky and heavy going even with spikes. The course itself was undulating with a few steep climbs but was runnable (even for me, hill session worked) and I particularly enjoyed the fast downhill sections. I was towards the back for the entire race, as expected, but on the last lap I played the game of catch the next person and managed to pick off three people which was deeply satisfying.

I felt good going into this race and I can honestly say I gave it my all. I am never going to win a race but I still race/run as hard as I can. Sometimes you finish a race and say to yourself “was that it” and feel unsatisfied knowing you could have given more. Occasionally you finish a race completely spent and wonder how you are going to make it back to the car. Well I was wondering how I was going to make it to the changing tent let alone the car.

finish line

What an enjoyable experience this whole cross country season has been, it’s not easy racing, there are no frills and/or goody bags just people who want to race hard and do the best they can. Saturday’s performance was my reward for the whole season, yes I’m still buzzing. I am now going to focus on gaining some road PB’s before switching to summer fells.  I also look forward to the cross country season starting again later in the year where I hope to be joined by plenty of fellow Otley members.

2016 National XC – Senior Women
1 0:30:35 Lillian Partridge (ALDERSHOT FARNHAM & DISTR)
2 0:30:45 Claire Duck (LEEDS CITY ATHLETIC CLUB)
3 0:30:54 Katie Holt (CITY OF STOKE AC)

 

2016 National XC – Senior Men
1 0:42:09 Jonathan Hay (ALDERSHOT FARNHAM & DISTR)
2 0:42:16 Adam Hickey (SOUTHEND ON SEA AC)
3 0:42:53 Nicholas Swinburn (MORPETH HARRIERS & AC)
1714 1:30:13 Sean O’Halloran (OTLEY AC)

Full results can be found here www.englishcrosscountry.co.uk/news/saucony-english-national-cross-country-results-2016/

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Apperley Bridge Canter 10k

Following a last min decision, due to a change in childcare duties, I was free to run on Thursday evening and decided to enter the 2015 Apperley Bridge Canter along with a good turnout from the club.

The race is billed as a multi terrain race, but I decided to run in road shoes and was glad I did as 90% of the race was tarmac. Due a change in route because of canal path closures and not knowing the area I was completely unaware of what lay ahead.

The route had three steady climbs   which tested the legs and lungs, but in comparison to the hills I have been doing recently they were easily runnable and enjoyable (for me anyway). The places I gained on the hills were balanced out on the flat/downhill tarmac sections which made great racing.

Toni (friend from Otley AC), and I had an enjoyable battle on the night; From the start I could always see Toni just ahead but never gained until the second noticeable climb, around half way, where I caught up and pulled ahead.   Toni then caught me on the flat/downhill tarmac section. Going into the final mile we were side by side covering each other’s move. My saving grace was a steep downhill grassy bank, switching in to off road mode I flew down the hill and took a slight lead. But it was not long before Toni was on my shoulder again.

Into the final field and about 800m to go and the race was on. The route took us around a large playing field and I could sense Toni behind me all the time.  We turned the final corner and on to the last 200m and us both set off for a sprint finish.

Every time I increased my pace Toni was there, I could hear her breathing hard and giving it her all. With 10-15m to go and with the lactate levels almost at the max, I moved into top gear and gave it absolutely everything I had and held on to cross the line just ahead.  

Immediately after crossing the finishing line the retching started and waves or nausea hit, yep I had been pushed to the limit and it confirmed I had given it everything.

I was thankful for the steady climbs and minimal off road sections, without them Toni would have easily taken the victory. It was a great battle and I thank Toni for pushing me hard and next time I’m sure Toni will take the honours, this is what I love about racing.

However the performance of the night for me goes to fellow club member Lisa Maughan,   following a time off due to injury and family commitments Lisa confirmed last night she is back and running really well, especially after doing Ilkley Trail race earlier in the week.

First home for OAC was Tom Midgley in , Also for Otley were Mark Hall, Steven Small, Andrew Rayner, Sara Eliott, Lisa Maughan, and Sara Richard, myself and Toni Midgley. 

Details from my Garmin: 

 

Inter Counties Fell Champs. 

Introduction

For me, this weekend was huge and an opportunity not to miss. I did, with great pride,represent my home county of Suffolk at the 2015 Inter Counties Fell Championships in Betwys-y-Coed. 

Background 

Being relatively new to running and coming from a county which is very much flat, I had never heard of fell running until we moved to Yorkshire. 

My first fell race, Withens Skyline, was in the Autum of 2013 and I immediately fell in love with the sport even if it was a shock to the system. 

This year I became a member of the FRA and while reading the 2015 handbook i discovered there were inter county fell championships each year. I looked through some of the old results and realised my home county Suffolk was not represented in fell running.  

Seeing an opportunity, I sent the Suffolk County Athletics Association an email and was given the agreement for me to represent Suffolk in the coming inter counties fell champs race and with that I obtained my Suffolk vest. 

 In the following months I knuckled down and I focused on hill training with a little speed training thrown in under the watchful eye of coach Jamil Parapia and the Duma Running Team. 

Day -2

With my final training session completed (flat out hill pyramids followed by a tempo mile) it was time to pack and travel to Wales. We had booked a cottage for three nights, just 3 miles from Betwys-y-Coed, and traveled down on Thursday afternoon. 

The journey down was uneventful and with just under 3 hrs of driving we had arrived. We soon settled into the lovely quite and cosy cottage (http://mobile.ownersdirect.co.uk/Property.aspx?token=aWQ9MTA2MDYz&h=TozCsUuNTs9Nbp3v4oJZJA%3d%3d

I can really recommend the cottage, just perfect and in a fantastic location. Oh and reasonably priced. 

Day -1

After a hearty family breakfast we traveled to Betwys-y-Coed so I could recce part of the course. I wanted to see what under foot conditions were like to aid in shoe choose. Early track indications hinted towards trail shoes. However, The route ventures off the hard track to more technical conditions. 

  Having seen the more rugged conditions I decided to opt for my fell shoes. Retracing my steps I met up with Elaine and Niamh again and we had a look around the small beautiful village. 

Niamh was on about to mountains so we decided to travel to Llanberis in order to get the train to the summit of Snowdon. Howeve we found there was a three hour wait until the next available train, so like true English people we had lunch and waited patiently.

Finally it was our time, we boarded the train only to be told that the wind speeds were too high inorder for the train to go to the summit. We were told the train would only go as far as Rocky Valley, great!!! Waited three hours and we can’t get to the top, but we would get £6 back per ticket!! 

Having waited we decided to take the train ride up and back down. The views were amazing although the train seats were not very comfortable. Niamh made friend with a retired couple and we enjoyed our time in Llanberis. 

 
Traveled back to the cottage for tea and a relaxing evening of film watching. 

Race Day 

It was finally here!! Race day. Following a good energy rich breakfast and half a pot of coffee we headed off to Betwys-y-Coed nice and early. Knowing parking could be a challenge and not wanting to rush we allowed plenty of time. 

The senior men’s race was at 1300 and as we arrived just before 1130 we had plenty of time to look around. I went up to the finish area to collect my race number and discovered no kit was needed, not even checked !! 

Time managed to go quickly and soon there was only 30mins to the off. I made sure I did a good warm up and stretch and with a kiss to Elaine and Niamh I went to the start line where I chatted to fellow runners including Tom Adams from Ilkley Harriers.  

 

The course took runners from the start and finish areas in the picturesque village of Betws-Y-Coed around nearby Forestry in the Snowdonia National Park. The route used a course similar to the ones that will be used for the World Mountain Running Championships that take place at the same venue in September 2015.

 
I think there were about 90 of us on the start line, although this was also an open race, there were not many non county vests. I soon realised I was very likely to finish last, but I was here and I was going to enjoy it as much as possible. 

Straight from the off the route climbs and climbs and climbs for the first mile. The men’s start was further down the hill towards the river and we had to run past the finish line. 

  

With lots clapping and cheering we zig zag our way up the hill. Once off the track and onto the rough steep hill I soon lost sight of the other runners and settled into my own race. 

There were three brutal climbs in the race totalling a total elevation gain of 1700 feet.

 After the first mile the course moves into an undulating section (in comparison to the rest of the route) which leads to the Marian mountain bike trail. This was one of the highlights of the route, the section was undulating, technical in places and twisty which made for perfect trail running. 

Following the Marian trail the route headed downwards and some relief for the calf muscles and time for the quads to burn. There were plenty of rocks and tree roots to negotiate with patches mud thrown in for good measure but fast descending was possible.  

Just when the legs were recovering from the first climb, we were sent on the extension to the first lap. This extension was tough and took us on the steepest part of the race. With hands on knees and the occasional scramble the course looped back up to the top of the Marian trail and back onto the normal loop. From here it was mainly all down hill to the finish area.

Just before the final section leading to the finish area I was greeted with claps and cheers from Elaine and Niamh and a team manager from Devon gave me a bottle or water which was welcomed. 

 
From here I ran past Eileen Woodhead who offered words of encouragement while taking photos. 

 

By the time I had reached the finish area I had been lapped and the leaders had already finished. The finish area was off to the left but I headed right to start my second lap. 

My legs and lungs asking what the hell I was doing, I could see the finished runners rehydrating and enjoying a chat. But I ploughed on and started my second lap. This lap was the same at the first, without the extension, but with tired legs seemed harder than the first. 

The final descent was more enjoyable than first time round as I knew it lead to the finish line. Onto the final session I could hear the PA system getting louder and before I know it the finish was in sight. Running past a cheering Elaine and Niamh I pushed on to the finish line just in time to see the presentations. 

Upon crossing the line I was handed a welcomed bottle of water and received handshakes of congratulations from the lead guys, it was especially nice when Tom Adams came over to congratulate me also.

Yes I came last, but in reality I was never going to finish anywhere else. The class of runner on display today was awesome and I was proud to be part of it representing my home county. I finished in a time of 1:44:02. 

 The winner of the senior men’s race was Andrew Douglas from Scotlend West in a time of 45:26. The winner of the senior ladies race (slightly shorter route with no extended session) was Emma Clayton from Yorkshire in 40:29. 

The winning senior men’s team was Yorkshire while the winning senior ladies team was Cumbria.

I met up with Elaine and Niamh and the three of us went and enjoyed an ice cream before heading back to the cottage. 

 After a freshen up we visited the local supermarked for a few supplies before returning back to the cottage for sausage, egg and chips. 

The rest of the evening was spent relaxing and enjoying the quiet cottage before bed. 

Post race day

Following an excellent nights sleep I woke around 0700hrs. It was time to pack up and head for home (needed to be out for 1000). Visited Pistyll Rhaeadr on route home which was a nice way to finish off the weekend. 

 

What a weekend!! I could not have asked for any more. We had found a little gem of a cottage to stay in, gorgeous part of Wales, spot on weather and a fantastic fell race. I will certinally remember this weekend for a few years to come. 

Back to training on Tuesday and next race will be the wharfedale half marathon (off road). 

Flower Scar Fell Race. 

Both myself and an established fell running work colleague put ourselves onto the waiting list for this race due to it being full when we tried to enter. Fortunately, due to people dropping out we were eventually offered places. 

The Flower Scar Fell Race was a counter in the 2015 FRA English Championship and also acted as the 2015 Yorkshire Championship for seniors and u23′s. 

As you can imagine this race attracted the best fell runners in the UK, only Tom Adams was missing due to inter county cross country. Knowing how high profile this race was and the caliber of runner on the start line I was rather nervous. My ultimate aims were not to make a fool out of myself and to try not to come last. 

This was a gem of a race with steep climbs, rough moor and fast paths, typifying all that’s best about South Pennine fell running. The race was a distance of 9 km (5.6 miles) with 470 metres (1,542 feet) of climbing. The Chevin is a climb of about 180 metres (600 feet) to put it into perspective. 

I went off hard at the start and dug really deep to hang on to the runners in front for as long as I could. The gap to those in front of me got bigger and the gap to those behind was shortening towards the top of flower scar . With my legs hurting, lungs burning and a general feeling of nausea I disengaged brain and threw myself down the hills and the gap to the people behind was once again lengthening. 

After a long down hill run there was a sting in the tail. The route went back up again for about 300 feet before rejoining the outward track and then the fast decent to the finish. 

This race was very tough and it hurt a lot. But I loved it!! My aim was to enjoy myself, have fun, develop further my fell running and not come last, all achieved. I finished in 323rd out of 328 in a time of 01:26:01. 



January 2015.

New year and new challenges.
I am still finalising the 2015 main challenges but in preparation for them I shall be taking on the fells.

Fell running is something which I really enjoy, even if it’s tough and unpredictable. This year I have decided to get some structured coaching, improving technique and efficiency through running drills and focused training sessions.

January has come and almost gone and I have started to run home from work on a Thursday to slowly increase weekly mileage. The first week was unsuccessful and I needed to call me wife to pick me up. However the second week (29 Jan) was a success despite the snow and sheet ice all the way home. On a plus side I have learnt to run in the snow and ice.

IMG_2691

Having a think about what my major challenges are going to be, I have made a decision. My A race of the year will be the White Rose Ultra 60 mile option. Last year I did the 30 mile version and this year I want to go one step further and do the 60!!

So with a target in place, need to take to the hills. Just as well my new trail shoes arrived today, need to get them muddy.

White Rose Ultra

Following a lengthy string of comments to a facebook status back in March 2014, Lisa Maughan (fellow club member) and I ended up entering the 30 mile multi terrain White Rose Ultra Marathon. A little later in the year Sara Richard (fellow club member), during a run with the beginners group, had been talked into joining us. The three of us had done marathons before and now we were about to break our ultra virginity.

The White Rose Ultra Marathon was Hosted by Team OA in the fabulous Colne Valley in God’s own country…. Yorkshire the heart of Great Britain!
They gave the choice of a 60 or 30 mile options.

After completing this years London Marathon, the White Rose Ultra had become my “A” race for the remainder of the year. Looking at the course map and profile, I knew this was going to be a tough race and serious training was needed. I found a 16 week first 50k training plan on the Internet which suited my training opportunities.

After months of 5 days a week training, which in included hill rep sessions and back to back long runs on the weekends, I managed to improve my fitness to a level needed to complete this event. Lisa and Sara had also been working extremely hard in their training and when possible we accompanied each other in training.

In the final month leading up to this ultra I was running really well, the weeks of hard graft were showing and as I started my taper I was feeling confident of completing the race. Although there was always doubt in the back of my mind if I would finish, 30 miles is a long way. Before we knew it race day was here and it was time to reap the rewards of the hard training and have some fun.

Leading up the the event I had been doing lots of research and trial and error on what would be best for me to wear on race day. Finally I decided on a long sleeve running shirt, club vest, A400 long skins, shorts over skins, cushioned running socks and Mizuno Wave Cabrakan 5 trail shoes. My pack was a Nathan X-Treme hydration pack and my jacket was a Marmot Mica. I managed to stow all the compulsory kit in the pack and also took soreen lunch box bars and Torq energy gels (black cherry).

With my fantastic support crew, Elaine (wife) and Niamh (daughter), we picked up Sara early on Sunday morning and headed to Marsden in West Yorkshire. Arriving nice and early we met up Lisa and final race prep got under way. Following a few last min decisions about what kit to wear and what to carry oh and the numerous trips to the toilet (Lisa and Sara) we were ready.

We were called to the start line and following the good luck wishes from Elaine And Niamh and the pre race briefing the starting gun went off. Previous experience of hearing a starting gun everyone runs off as hard as they can, because every second counts, but today was different.

The race got underway with a gentle downhill jog for about 0.5 mile where we turned a corner to see the start of the 4.5 mile climb in which we were going to gain about 900 feet. Just prior to the start of the race it had been raining so I decided to wear my jacket. However, within the first mile The rain had stopped and I was getting warm so I stopped, removed my jacket and stowed it away in my pack. At this point i lost sight of Lisa and Sara, but I knew they were quicker than me so was not bothered and onwards I went.

Before the race I had made the decision, after talking to our club ultra experts, to walk most of the up hill sections and to run the flat and downhill sections. After mixture of running and walking and enjoying the scenery I had made it to the highest point of the race and the first drinks station at approximately 5 miles. Stupidly I thought that was the toughest bit of the route done, oh how I was going to be proven wrong later. I briefly stopped at the drinks station and under the expert instruction of Sarah Fuller (club member and ultra expert) I had some cake and water.

The next section to 10 miles was mainly downhill, sounded great but my quads took a pounding. Just before the downhill section Elaine and Niamh were waiting to give support as I passed. I learnt that Lisa and Sara were about 5 mins ahead of me and I pushed on to the next drinks station.

I soon learnt that people who do ultra marathons are a totally different bread of runner. On the odd occasion I overtook someone (I know, I over took someone I could not believe it either) or someone overtook me we would have a chat for a while before pressing on.

The 10 mile drinks station came and went and before I knew if I had done a half marathon. I felt good and the race walk/run plan was going well. However the relentless uphill sections were starting to take its toll and I was starting to feel it in my hamstrings. There was another drinks station at 15 miles and I had made it to half way. Refuelling with sweet and savoury snacks and a drink of water I pushed on up another hill. Now I was counting down the miles.

The first half of the race had a few steep hills, however the second half had lots of energy zapping up and down hills and not many flat bits in between. Just before 20 miles I found Elaine and Niamh again, Elaine was directing runners down the correct path, apparently a few had taken the wrong path, while Niamh played played with the horse who had come to say hello. Just at that moment, Lisa’s husband Carl rolled up on his bike to say hello and he was informed that Lisa and Sara were about 30min ahead.

I had made it to the aid station where again sweet and savoury snacks were devoured. By this point my legs were starting to wonder what the hell I was doing, but I refuelled and went on. I ran some of the next section with a couple who were doing the 60 mile option. At this point I knew I was going to finish and after a few miles they pressed on ahead.

After a nasty downhill section (ski jumps are less severe) we had arrived at the 25 mile station. This was the final checkpoint of the race. During the course of the race I had been sipping on electrolyte drink from my backpack bladder. This had unfortunately ran out at about mile 23 so I refilled the bladder, ate some peanuts and salted pretzels and with a handful of jelly babies I left the checkpoint.

The final 5 miles felt like the hardest of the entire race! I’m not sure how much that was due to very tired and sore legs or if it was actually hard. I was very pleased to pass the marathon distance, now I was in unfamiliar waters as I had never gone beyond 26.2 miles before. It was at this point I was sick of bloody hills, normally I loved hills but now I hated them. My legs were very tired and sore at this point and a string of stiles to climb over is not what you want to see.

We passed through the final few fields and marsh land to be greeted with the final climb of the race. This late on the final hill was very tough and with screaming legs I reached the top and before I knew it I could see the finish. The finish was back at the cricked pavilion which was now visible across the valley. Approximately one mile to go!!! Down the track away from the pavilion to where the track met the road and it was then back down the road to the finish.

I summoned some energy from somewhere to jog the final mile home, thankfully it was gravity assisted. Within the final 400m I realised what I was about to achieve, I was about to complete a 30 mile ultra marathon and at that moment with clenched fists I swore out loud to all of those people who had ever doubted me!

Having now composed myself again I approached the entrance to the cricket field and with one clockwise half lap of the ground I was welcomed home by Elaine, Niamh and Sara (Lisa had to dash off) and all the other runners and supports. I had done it!!!

I climbed the steps to the club house and embraced Elaine and Niamh. I ventured inside to make sure I collected my finishers shirt and medal. I grabbed a bacon roll and coffee and chatted about the day, exchanging experiences before heading home.

I learnt a lot during this race, the ultra community is a really friendly and welcoming one, you learn to push you body past pre-perceived limits and you get to eat cake. Yes it was tough but I loved it and this is just the start of ultra running for me!!

Lisa and Sara completed the race in about 6hrs 35mins and I completed it in about 7hrs 35mins. But the times are irrelevant to me, my aim was to complete the race and enjoy it. Job done !!

Here is a link to my strava page.

http://www.strava.com/activities/215009661

Club handicap race – Fewston Reservoir.

The week following London Marathon consisted of a well needed sports massage, an unsuccessful club run and plenty of rest and food. Oh and i may have told my London story a few time during the week also.

A week on and my legs were starting to feel more normal. However, not wanting to do to much to soon I decided keep the beginners group company on Tuesday evening. It was great to be out running with the club again and my legs felt pretty good, no screaming muscles. It was also great to get my off road shoes on again as i am fed up with tarmac. The mixture of the river bank, fields and track oh and the great company was just what the Dr ordered.

Following a successful outing on Tuesday i decided to take part in the next round of the club handicap series. The next round was a 4 mile loop around Fewston Reservoir and a repeat of my first handicap race with the club this time last year. Following that not so great performance, setting off first and coming back last, i hoped to do better this year.

Meeting waiting/warming up at the reservoir car park was a great turn out of club members. There were eventually 40 runners taking part in the race meaning there were plenty of points on offer. My build up to London consisted or mainly longer runs and very little (virtually non existant) speed work and with not fully recovered legs i was not expecting to get many points. However, as this race was only 4 miles around the reservoir i was going to give it everything and see what happened.

We lined up at the start area awaiting for the start. A single runner was first off i was in the second group being set off 2 minutes later. Following a count down from 10 seconds my group was off and i sped off in pursuit of the of the leader. I initially went off hard but eventually settled into a hard but more manageable pace. The route around the reservoir is made up of lots of little steep undulations and a weaving well made path. Occasionally i could see the leader in front before he disappeared around the corner, but i was slowly closing in on him.

Just after the first mile i looked over my shoulder and could see that, like the leader, i too was being hunted down and soon i had been caught and was overtaken to relegate me into third. At half way point i got the chance to have a good look behind me as the route ventures up along the road before returning back to the reservoir bank. There was a very little gap (about 10 seconds) behind me and i was expecting to be caught again very soon.

Once down the steps from the road and back on the reservoir bank i upped my pace slightly to try and prolong the inevitable wave of overtaking runners. Running at this faster pace was making my lungs and legs work hard and i was unsure how long i could sustain it. With just over a mile from the finish I was yet to be overtaken by the chasing pack and still remained in third. I was still working hard and maintaining my new pace but i was starting to get tired legs.

With just under a mile to go i was caught and overtaken (by the eventual winner), i was now in fourth. Towards the end of the reservoir bank and approx 1/2 mile to the finish i was caught by a further three runners relegating me to seventh. However, i was gaining all the time on runner who was set off first and i really wanted to catch and pass him before the finish and gain a place back.

Down some steps to the road and the run into the finish was about 0.3 miles. I was caught by another runner on the run in to the finish but i upped my pace and tried to keep with them. Eventually i caught the runner who was set off first meaning i had made up the 2 min deficit, however he was not going to let me pass easily and the race to the finish was on. The final 50 metres of the race is up a steep hill to the finish. Not wanting to be overtaken again i gave it everything and with pumping arms I sprinted up the hill re-overtaking someone and creating a small gap behind me. While sprinting up the hill i was overtaken into sixth place and i eventually finished in seventh, so i thought.

As soon as i finished i turned around and could see a mass of runners powering up the hill to the finish. This was a very tight race and the handicaps people were given were spot on. Club runners streamed through the finish however someone was missing. The lady who over took me before the half way point had not yet finished and it was quickly evident that she had taken a wrong turn. I was gutted for her as she flew past me and would have won the race easily. However, this meant that i actually finished in 6th and as there were 40 runners taking part I was awarded 35 points towards the championship.

I managed to complete the 3.97 mile race in 38:37. I was really happy with my race and gave it everything i could. My pacing was good during the race, hard but sustainable, and i was able to have a sprint to the finish. My legs and lungs were burning and i felt great, high on endorphins!

When i got home i looked on the club website at my 2013 time and I was amazed to see i was 5 minutes quicker this time round. I am now looking forward to the next club handicap as by then my legs should have fully recoverd. However, the handicap race results are partly in the hands of the person who sets the handicaps, fingers crossed i get a favourable one.

Now looking forward to an off road run on Sunday, wife permitting.