Downfall was a race I did not get to do last year as by the time I knew about it, the whole thing was full up. Not wanting that to happen again this year I think my entry was in sometime during February. Despite doing this, and getting to race day, I still wasn't entirely sure about the route. I know it goes up, along and down, but where it starts, and more importantly, where it ends, not entirely sure. I thought I'd work it out as time went on.
We picked up a few of the Glossopdale faithful on the way over to Hayfield, getting there really quite early- not that I mind that at all, I'd rather have time for a natter with people before the race starts. Was surprised to see Pete Blands van there, in the rain, doing a roaring trade of all manner of new shoes and bags and energy gels and stuff. I managed to catch up with a few people before the race that I haven't see in in a while, Fellmonkey was there, IDP, and a load of regulars from Pennine as well whom I don't normally get to say hi to.
The rain began to slacken off as we gathered for the start (having had a quick look at the map before hand, to get a slightly better idea of the route). I had a last minute change of heart, opting to wear a helly under my club vest. If I was cold at the bottom of the hill, I was quite likely to be freezing at the top. We stood around listening to Dave Soles give us the briefing, then worked our way into place on the bridge for the start. I was really quite far back from the front, not the greatest place to be in order to get a good time, but no time to worry about that, as we were off. Round the corner and then I saw the field of runners stretch out ahead of me. Damn. That's going to take a while to get through. The leaders were already quite far ahead, and stretching out the lead, and there must have been a hundred runners or so between me and the front of the pack.
Time to make up some time.
Running up onto the pavement I skirt around a fair few runners, weave in and out a bit, gaining some time, but not going too hard, just getting up the field a bit. Turn left up onto Snake Path and its the same story, weaving in and out, trying to get past the slower runners who were intelligent enough to get further ahead of me at the start. I lose my footing once, saved myself, and carried on.
Cresting the hill I tracked down someone that looked like they were weaving drunkenly through muddy puddles. Giving him a wide berth, I realised it was idp- pleasantries exchanged I carried on.
All of a sudden I saw something in the corner of my eye.
|Pete Blands Marvellous travelling shop|
The unmistakable beginnings of a migraine. Pretty soon peripheral vision will deteriorate to nothing, vision directly in front of me will go, and I'll just be able to see a small arc of whats going on, with everything around it being a bright flashing aura. This will be followed by a reduction in the aura, then, after a while, a splitting headache.
I contemplated stopping there and then by the White Cabin, but I had no aspirin with me- and faced a walk down the hill to get to the car, and then a long painful wait until everyone got back to the car. Depressing and boring. I might as well carry on, if I fall over excessively because I can't see anything, I'll stop then, but until then, I'll run.
Down from the White Cabin along a lovely springy track I followed closely in the footsteps of another runner. I was aching to go faster, but there was no way to overtake. Acutely aware that the guys at the front were getting further away, but also that my vision was deteriorating, I decided not to chance it by thrashing around this runner in the heather, and just marked him all the way down. To the junction toward the top end of the reservoir and the bridge a lot of runners were taking the path down, a marshal there said take any line we liked, so I ran further up the path before scything down through the heather, leaving the guy I had been following for dust. I had literally no peripheral vision at this point and have no idea how many people I overtook, but it must have been somewhere around 10 or so.
Linking in with the runners on the path neatly at the bottom we pass people and I recognise Carls voice saying well done, I wave, but that's all I'm capable of, and now up William clough, the not so easy bit.
Steady pace, and get stuck behind 2 people, not so bad as I am literally following them step for step, not trusting myself to see where I'm going. Half way up and they are walking, its about 20metres to the next guy so I take a gamble, overtake and head on up to him.
Crikey, I MUST be blind. I only notice its John Hewitt as I nearly trip over his new shoes. Up the hill to the top, following on his coat tails, past Steve C who is taking photos, up past the finger post and onto the final horrible climb up to Kinder Corner. I am overtaken on the run down to the start of the climb, but I manage to take it back, and then some on the climb up. John is pulling away a bit, but in front of him is another GDH vest- its Ali, and only 20 yards ahead. My vision might be coming back a bit. This is good, but don't go too hard.
|The Map- you can just about see the route|
There is a gaggle of 3 or 4 of us, hammering around the edge, no-one giving a quarter, no-one saying a word. We catch up to Ali at the Sandy Heys Kissing gate, but beyond there, they all begin to edge away from me. I'm not tired, my legs are ok, I'm not breathing particularly hard, but I still can't really see. I have to keep up so as not to get lost, and also to work out where the best places to put my feet. A burst of speed gets me back on to them, but in the mist and clag, all of a sudden Ali is gone. No-where to be seen. That boy has a real turn of speed when he needs it!
I remember getting to Kinder Downfall, with Julien standing on the sidelines with Brae, giving us support and cheering us on, past there I manage to tuck in behind John, breaking up him and the other runner. There is no-one to see in front of us as we make the long, long run down toward Red Brook (it just SEEMS like it goes on forever), Kinder MRT were gathered there, but I had no thoughts for them, despite the ongoing sight problems. Then, as we passed Red Brook, my vision began to clear a bit. I could see a bit more, and was able to judge foot placements. Brilliant.
However, this means I don't have too long before the splitting headache and nausea arrives.
Only one remedy. Go faster.
I overtake John, and know he is hard, hard on my heels, we must be speeding up as other runners appear out of the mist, we are gaining on them. 2, 3, maybe 4 of them. I carry on the speed, and coming up to Kinder Low, my vision must be getting a little better as I recognise Fellmonkey, who has been miles ahead of me all race, just cruising along. Time to hit the downhill section. I pass 2 or 3 people before we go down the flags. Horrible, slippy things that you really need to be careful on, not nice. I try and keep to the sides, and manage to stay on my feet. All the way down Swines Back there is Fellmonkey and 2 others in front of me, just before Edale cross I pass one, just after Edale cross I'm hammering behind the other 2, and toward the bottom, one follows a further ahead runner left on the grass, and I make the decision to hit the rocky path with Fellmonkey. Theoretically longer and slower, but we pass the other 2 easily.
Over the stile, and blast along the path, past some DofEers who kindly get out of the way. A fantastic descent and I can no longer hear anyone behind me- I can see Ali in front of me though. Over a step stile, and up, and there is someone behind me again. He pulls up with me- is it John?
|A mile from the end with Fellmonkey, just before my legs give out|
We blast down the final hill, (thats the pic on the left- thanks to Chris Jackson & family for the photo)! and through the gates and stiles together. Ali has seen us and has responded and we make no ground on him at all. Thrashing through the fields, I feel great, the descent it at just the right pitch for me to let go and run, then we hit the road.
I can feel the energy sap from my legs. I've gone too far too fast. Running to beat the migraine has blown me to pieces and now my legs are paying. Fellmonkey stretches out a bit and expects me to follow, but I have nothing.
At times like this its all I can do to keep myself from walking. I know I have to get to the end, try and find somewhere to lie down, in the quiet and the dark. If I walk, its just going to take longer. There are a whole bunch of people behind me just aching to take back the time I gained on them during that descent.
Must. Keep. Moving.
Fellmonkey heads off in front with what seem like fresh legs- he looks back as if to say, "cmon- we're nearly there"- but I wave him ahead.
The final mile is hell, I am overtaken by only one person, but it takes an ages. I'm not sure where the finish is, and am surprised when it is so soon- had I have known, I still wouldn't have had the energy to get those last 3 places, to get in front of Ali- although Fellmonkey eventually did.
Finish. Jump in river. Rest, Kendal mint cake, BANG. Splitting headache.
I crawl to the car, change and sit there shivering, holding my head. Thankfully I know someone in Hayfield who takes me in, feeds me water and keeps me warm until Lynne finishes.
Shame I couldn't join in any post race banter, or see the film, which I hear was excellent, hopefully I will see you all next time, and we can reminisce over a pint.
As it was it was all I could do to be driven home, have a shower and collapse into a dark room.
I later found out I was 18th, in 1:18:52. That ain't bad.
Again, sorry for lack of photos, if anyone has any of me that they wouldn't mind donating, that'd be great. Maybe I'll just take a camera next time!
Thanks to all the organisers and marshals- sorry I didn't say thanks to you all as I ran through the gates like I normally do, I had other things on my mind.
And the Results are Here.