Saturday, 23 November 2013

Full Tour of Pendle

Apologies. I have no photos. I was running a bit hard for that. There are some decent photos out there, there were enough photogs. When I have one, I'll stick it up.
Til then, have this instead.

My first Long tour of Pendle.
Another one on the Glossopdale Championships list, but as its getting toward the end of the year, not as well attended as the ones earlier on.
After a minor confusion in october of someone telling me the tour of Pendle was Full (it turns out that it was simply the Full tour of Pendle... I got my entry in pretty swiftly after that. A good thing too as it was actually full by about 3 weeks ago. Having never actually been to Pendle before, I thought I'd best do a fair bit of computer recceing, found a couple of GPS tracks from last year, which happened to be about the time I wanted to do it in, and worked out a race plan. Not something I've ever done before, and not actually something that helped DURING the race, but it is interesting looking at different splits at different stages of the race in comparison to how I hoped I would do.

Luckily the weather was calm and clear, if a tad cold, so the helly under the team vest was a good plan. As were the somewhat larger and warmer gloves that everyone else was sporting. I didn't take them off all race! (yes, I get very cold hands).

A race with 400 runners is always going to be a bit of a crazy start. I was about 8 rows back from the front, and could barely hear what the organiser was saying, so the guys further back must have been a bit startled when the race actually started! From talking with a good number of people that have done the race, the first climb is an "easy" one, and it is very easy to get carried away and blast your legs into the abyss before you actually start the race proper. I tried to keep a tab on how my legs were feeling, seeing a number of Pennine runners ahead. I knew I was in front of Julien, as he made a brief appearance by my side, before dropping back, obviously thinking that my pace was a little too hot for that early in the race. I hadn't seen Mark O since before the beginning. He was either so far ahead it wasn't worth chasing at this point, or had already crashed out. Unlikely. I suspected he was a long way head, even now.

1st descent, the legs were feeling it a bit, and I was concerned that I'd overcooked it. Ate some food- figuring that energy was going to be the main issue in the second half of the race. I held my own on the way down, and along, before going up the first of the steep hills. Conrad was already storming away up the hill ahead of me, the only person near me that I knew, and it wasn't until the Geronimo descent on the otherside that I caught up with, and overtook him, along with about 5 other people. The spectators at the bottom were fantastic, cheering on everyone with equal enthusiasm.

The long haul back up to the next checkpoint was interspersed with someone going over on an ankle, and someone else falling over in front of me twice, and all the people that I'd overtaken down hill, re-overtaking me again on the ups. On the steep up, I downed a gel, ready for the second half of the race. Another 3 big steep ups to do before the end, so getting something in was a necessity.

Again, despite losing places on the ascent, and looking over to the next top where the leaders were already forging ahead, I made up a decent amount of places on the steep and slippy descent, getting to almost within touching distance of the 2 pennine guys in front of me, Stefan and Dave Ward. However, I knew they would take out some more time on the up. I also had a sneaky look over to my right as I started the ascent, noticing that Julien was still behind, but not a whole lot of distance.
Would he catch me on the second to last, or the last climb? Nothing to do but just keep stomping up the hill, trying to keep a rhythm, and ignore the almost inevitable, of him blasting past at somepoint in the near future.

Near the top of the 3rd last climb, one of the photographers shouted "come on Jasmin!" Ah, Jasmin right behind me. That means Jules really can't be far behind either. Down another gel, dig in, and try and get some distance away on the descent.
Hammering down to Checkpoint 7 was fabulous. The speed and the freedom of thrashing down something that you don't need to think about, while others are floundering around is brilliant. Hit the bottom, and straight back up again.
Taking it in a series of 10 steps followed by another 10 steps, and so on, without break until I got to the top seemed to be the best way of dealing with it. Jasmin came past me just near the top as the hill flattened out, saying "come on, you can still beat me, you know". To which my response was "well... theoretically, yes. But physically? Im not so sure".

We ran shoulder to shoulder up the long and torturous incline before the stonking descent to the bottom of the last BIG up. As ever, enjoying the descent, I necked another gel, in preparation for the final few kilometres, pulled away a little, and at the bottom, managed to finally catch Stefan from Pennine, who promptly accelerated away from me up the ridiculously steep climb.
Jasmin caught me again half way up, and I just tried to tap out a steady rhythm, hoping against hope that I might be able to make it all back on the final descent.
Don't stop. Don't stop. Don't stop.

I bet Jules is right behind me. Don't look back either. Just pretend he's there, its as good as if he really is.

Funnily enough, just as I climbed the final stile, and started running to the trig, Jules was there. Apparently he was about 4 steps behind me, trying to be very quiet, and about to make a proper race of it. Just as he began to accelerate to overtake, he was struck down with cramp. I never even knew he was there.

Aha! The last descent. Photo from
But I did have Stefan to chase, and ran him down by the time we passed the Trig point. Jasmin, and a group of 4 others were a good hundred metres away, and continued to be as we bashed across the moor. I couldn't close them, but no-one was closing on me. I prayed for a decent bit of steep downhill, and just before we hit the final checkpoint, there it was.
Fantastic. I overtook 2 of them there and then, and another as we passed the final checkpoint.

Should have checked how far it is from there to the end. Damn. Have I got enough in my legs? No idea. I checked my watch, and was comfortably under my target time of 2:45. Just another bloke and Jasmin in touching distance, and a couple of km to go...maybe?

They stretched out along the flat, I caught them on a downhill section, and managed to power past on the tarmac. Still a way to go, still flat, with people breathing down my neck, but as soon as it came to the final slope, I knew I had them. Stretching out, I strode home in 38th.
Brillant. Happy with that.

Jasmin was 4 seconds behind me. Jules, 3 mins behind. Mark was about 13 mins in front. No wonder I never actually saw him for the entire race!

Thanks to the astonishing amount of marshals and supporters out on such a bitter day.

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