|GDH pre-race conflab|
Although the Old County Tops has been a regular fixture for me in the past 3 years, I've not raced solo over an "ultra" distance. The LTOB was put in our club champs by some sadistic person (probably the same one that thought the Eryri Marathon would be a good idea as well), so I got my entry off early and settled down to think about and recce the route.
Time went by, I didn't recce it, no problems - I still have a month left, then contract work started, and all of a sudden there was no time to get over to the route to have a look at it. The evening before the race was spent printing out a map and marking on the route and checkpoints and thinking this is the least prepared for a race that I have ever been.
A non-restful week of cycle commuting to a new place of work and a race in the middle probably wouldn't help either, but, hey, give it my best shot and see what happens.
Lynne and I (accompanied by Martin - my sisters other half, who was doing the Half Tour), got over to Bradwell a bit early, and faffed for a while. The sun shone down on us, promising a day of good - but hot weather. Not necessarily the greatest of racing conditions, but at least we knew that everyone else was going to be suffering as well.
Looking around there was an abundance of ultra-running packs - unsurprising as this was part of the Ultra
|Lynne ready to run|
Paul Skuse of Glossopdale fame was wandering around like a lost sheep, bewildered by the fact his Garmin had no charge. If it isn't on strava, it didn't happen...
We walked to the start field, gently taking the mickey out of the self-confessed GPS-tracking addict (though to be fair, I'd have been equally as annoyed if that happened to me), and soon enough we had the pre-race talk, a quick countdown, and boom, we were off.
A bit of a dash to get to the gates out of the field - the exit was a little narrow and I didn't fancy being in a crush to get out, and onto a hard path. There were about 8 runners in front of me, but that wasn't a particular worry. It's a long race, after all.
I overtook a few of the guys in short order, I was feeling a little stifled by their pace, and wanted to stretch out my legs a little. There were now only about 3 people in front of me, but even before we got to the Cement works, they were a fair way ahead of me - probably non-catchable at this point - but as I punched the control a huge gaggle of runners were bearing down on me, time to get a wiggle on.
Or not - the climb up Pindale was a bit of a bugger, loose stones and a lot of people around. I ended up chatting with a couple of other guys, one of whom had won 3 Rings of Shap a couple of years ago - so pretty good pedigree then. As we ran along the top Martyn from Porter Valley Plodders and I struck up a conversation that lasted for a good few miles. The Cavedale descent was just as slippy and horrible as I was expecting, and it was definitely a Good Thing that I was wearing x-talons rather than fellraisers, even having said that, I nearly crocked my ankle big style, but managed to save it.
Into Castleton, a gulp of water, and I was gone, Martyn stopped for a couple of glasses, and another PVP chap caught up. I figured I'd get a bit of a shuffle on up towards Hollins Cross, and they'd catch up with me - but would have to expend energy in the process.
The sun was getting higher now, and things were heating up. Wearing a Black cap probably wasn't the most intelligent idea, especially as my white cap was languishing in a drawer somewhere at home. Martyn and company caught up with me, but as the ascent steepened up a bit I carried on running as the others walked with the result that I topped out a little bit ahead of them. The descent to the road was on a "nadgery" (as a mountain biker friend would say), so we stayed off to the left on the bank. Cross the road, and Martyn and I wound our way through the fields and to the next checkpoint on the road into Edale. John Boyle was there with the refreshments and encouragement. Again, a short stop, and onward.
There was a bit of a hold up going into the field where Edale Skyline starts because of a number of walkers on the path and bridge, no matter as we really weren't in a huge amount of rush. Along and up to Ringing Roger - or nearly. We trudged our way up there at a pace which was very very much slower than I imagine Simon Bailey went up there on Edale Skyline day. As we went up the switchback I had an inadvertent glance back, and a number of runners were strung out behind us - some in quite close proximity. No stopping now, despite the fact there was very little shade, and the sun was doing its best to dehydrate us.
We topped out after a bit of a walk/run climb, my legs were feeling it now, and I was wondering if I had started out a little too fast. It was an effort to keep up with Martyn up the hill, and I was beginning to feel quite envious of his Ultrapack- the waterbottle on the back of my bumbag was weighing it down and pulling the waist strap into my tummy making it a little uncomfortable to breathe so well. Maybe I might think about buying one of those at some point. The run over to Druids stone was fairly uneventful, apart from the fact we didn't see anyone else. The following drop through the heather to the wall, and descent was fun, but I caught my foot up in a piece of wire fence as I went over the stile, which held me up for a few moments, allowing Martyn to catch me up.
A bit of distance stretched out between us as we went down to the road, and then up to Back tor, but when I noticed he was only about 40 metres behind me as we slogged up, I waited at a gate for him in order to have a bit of company on the way to the top. As we approached the skyline we could see a number of runners going across - the Half Tour-ers on their way to Lose Hill. We joined the path and overtook a couple of them, and were then joined by a very young girl who seemed intent on racing us up the hill - pursued by her father who was astonished at her startling turn of speed... that one'll be a winner at some point.
|Me being confused by a dibber|
you guys out there!
A gulp of checkpoint water (it may have been lemon squash, but whatever it was, it was lovely), and onward. As I left Hope and wound my way up through the paths and roads, and at one point came across a Half-tourer in bermuda shorts, oakley frogskins, brand new terraclaws and the most amazing goatee beard. I really didn't know which to compliment him on first!
Up over and onto Winhill - which I always find strange when I don't go to the top - which we didn't, then a fabulous and easy descent through the woods, a sharp left, checkpoint and down to the dam. I came across a runner with a familiar rucksac on - Martin, doing the short Tour. We chatted very briefly, and I bombed along the path to the next checkpoint. Gulps of water, fill up of water bottle and a jog along to the split in the path where the Long Tour turns left toward Bamford and the Half-tourers carry on ahead.
A left turn and carry on - and at this point, I was caught up by Charlie Sharpe - vestless in his sunglasses. Today was indeed a hot day.
We chatted for a while, and as we went through Bamford and into the race route diversion and Charlie showed his strength by heading off in front of me.
A minor navigational issue occurred halfway along the diversion as I mistook a junction for one further along (and was probably influenced by the fact Charlie had gone down that path), and we ended up at a dead-end. Hmmm. Not so good. A check of the map, realisation of location, retrace and carry on the right track.
Ahead of us we could see Martyn, who had overtaken us, and it took us a good 2km - right up to the checkpoint on Stanage Causeway. We chatted again for a while, and then I strode out a bit (well, actually, I think my shuffle uphill ended up being a bit faster than his shuffle uphill), and a gap opened out. Considering how strong Charlie had been just now, I was fully expecting him to be with me - but the heat appeared to have taken a little toll on his strength and I made my way across the top of Stanage on my own, hopping between stones, saying hello to the climbers belaying on the tops, and looking wistfully at the circling paragliders, riding the thermals and ridge soaring.
Up to the trig point, a check of the map to get the right route off, and then down to Burbage. My legs were really starting to hurt, and my feet were feeling the stones - xtalons perhaps not the optimum shoes for an entirely track based ultra. Burbage carpark - a swift fill of the bottle, a gulp of drink and onward. I heard another runner arrive at the checkpoint as I left, but didn't look around to see who it was.
There is a choice of routes here, and my chosen route was the left most route - the main path which simply descends, no uphill to worry about, and certainly nothing to think about in terms of hazards underfoot.
Burbage was a bit of a low point. I could tell that my happiness levels were taking a bit of a dive as my "hellos" and "good afternoons" were getting less and less enthusiastic, so I made a bit of an effort to brighten up and be more positive - despite my sore feet and the nagging feeling of a potential quad strain.
At this point I really didn't know how far I had gone, and also hadn't bothered to put a "distance" section on my watch in order to easily check. At that moment, it bleeped, and the total km came up. 41. crikey. No wonder I'm feeling it a bit.
Down through Burbage, wondering if the runner who was so close behind was following me, or if they had taken one of the other 2 lines. Past a couple of Long Horn cattle and to Toads Mouth. Now this bit I had recced, and began to go to where I thought the control would be... glanced to my left and saw it on the other branch of the trail. Aha! so it IS in a different place.
Dib and go, down into Padley gorge with families aplenty, BBQ's and kids running around with shrimping nets (yes, really). The prior recce with Lynne a month ago paid off, and I didn't really need to think about route finding here, up and over to the next check, and then down the next hill.
Just heading down, I caught my foot and thought... oh dear, getting a little tired, best be caref... and then really caught my foot, staggered a little to catch myself right towards the edge of the path. Quick thinking meant I launched myself upward, and managed to land in a bush feet first, rather than head first, ending up with my shoulders at the level of the path, buried in undergrowth.
Well, it could have been a lot worse, but now I have to get out.
I manoeuvred myself out, and continued on and reflected on the fact I could have ended up headfirst down the side of the path, then put it out of my mind and concentrated on the steep downhill. Across and down again to the trees, and along to Leadmill. By this point I was fairly sure there was no-one in sight of me, and that I wasn't being "followed" - everyone was navigating themselves now. There was perhaps 10km or so to go, and a couple of hills left. All I needed to do was keep putting one foot in front of the other, at a speed faster than walking pace, and that's it.
The sun was beating down, and as soon as I hit the checkpoint at Leadmill Bridge, I grabbed a cup of water and threw it in my face. Much better. Dib and move. Although I had looked at this part of the route previously, I still managed to go 50m up the wrong road, so retraced my steps, wondering if anyone was catching me up. I looked around warily, but as there was no-one appearing, I turned right and went the correct way. Idiot. I must be getting tired.
A long walk up the road, followed by a navigation intensive route down into, through and out of Abney Clough, my map had been a constant companion for a few hours now, and although the route through the clough felt longer than it should have been, it was probably a product of me being tired, not moving as fast as I thought I was, and the heat on top of it all.
Eventually I hit Abney, a left and right, and this was it.... the final uphill before the descent to Bradwell.
Keep the legs moving, keep on turning it over. I knew that for every step that I ran up hill, it would get me to the end faster than anyone who decided to walk. Also, if I broke into a walk at any point, someone behind me who was running would easily catch me in these final few kilometres.
The choice to walk was there, but it was no choice.
Around the curve at the top, over the stile/gate thing and a final descent.
I took it gently, and at one point saw some directional tape going uphill along a path - when I knew I should have been going downhill. A pause, a think.... I know I need to go down, there is no way that is the correct way, I'll ignore it and carry on.
A good plan.
Down the route, and into the village, down the steps, and the final K along the road. Lucy and Martin were there and cheered me on, down the road and finally, into the finish. 5:44.
Not bad for an ultra which I was less than well prepared for. I'll spare you the post race generic flapping and feeling rubbish, but needless to say I was a tad dehydrated, and it took until about another 3 hours to feel like I was anywhere near back to normal.
|Lynne coming into the end|
What a great day out (if a little hot), thanks for the organisation, the food and drink stops which were excellently laid out and well supplied, thanks to the marshals, and well done to anyone who competed or completed. That was a hard old race.
And check this out - the results are up, not even 24 hours after we finished. Nicely done.