Sunday, 14 April 2013

No 23 Calderdale Hike

As I sit here snug and cosy the wind is howling outside and the rain is cascading down the window. Thanks god it was not like this yesterday! Calderdale was not just my next Ultra but the second in the ultras series. Despite telling myself that all I had to do was get round I knew that was a lie and that I would want to race it. The day started well as I had a lift, not my turn to drive. We arrived in plenty of time although too late to really help Jon put the ultra flags up. Sorry.

Registration was not quite ready for us runners so I had a cup of tea and an egg butty. I always seem to be hungry at the moment. Then it was discussions over the route maps. At least part of the recee I did with Andy had been in vain as the diagonal off Hoof Stones was banned due to ground nesting birds and re-seeding.  Ah well. It was great to catch up with Mick P, Chris, Martin D , Jen, a sun-tanned Nick, all the Krypton team and then to spot two local rivals from Garstang. Long before 9 I realised I was going to be warm enough with a thermal and a T so I shed a layer and then we were assembled outside comparing rucksacs and ready for the off. The start is not quite so reckless as it was when the start was a steep downhill but the front runners still tore off into the distnace and I knew I was being pulled along faster than was probably wise.

Jen, Nick, me, Mick and Jon
Most of the snow on Nab End had gone but the descent to Cragg Vale now had all the water draining off the hillside.  The climb out of Cragg Vale had most of us muttering and a little uncertain but infact we picked up exactly the route I took last year. At Erringden Grange I paid the price for my early exhuberance. My right leg locked up and refuesd to run properly. It was annoying but I have got used to this and am now better at not getting in a panic. So it was jog, walk and run if you can from there to Lumbutts. Stoodley Pike looked magnificent in the sunshine and all the snow had now disappeared.
Mick P caught me up and we ran chatting for a while. I had been undecided about the best way off the Pike and now know it probably wasn't the way we went? As I got to Lumbutts Gerry appeared speeding down the road with those words "where have you been?". It was enough to kick in my competetive brain and to try out my right leg. OK race on. I shot off through the pub and down the little path to the main road. Here I found Martin D and running with him and guiding him up the next tricky bits spurred me on. We picked off a few more runners that were just in front and ran as a group to the next CP.

 It was amazing just how much snow had vanished from these bridleways in just over a week. I am getting better at eating on ultras and it does seem to work. I grabbed a banana and set off up to the main road and the way onto the moor. The ground was less frozen than on our recee but was still less boggy than it often is up there. Having no navigation decision other than to follow the fence meant I could switch off and enjoy the view. My leg seemed to have recovered and I now slowly but determinedly started to try to pick off runners up ahead. I caught up with Chris and ran with him to Widdop Dam. Jogging along the road I realised there was a decision on the next bit- down the path to the lower reservoir or stay on the access road to the main dam? Almost everyone in front opted to go down but I thought it would be easier running on the road and stayed high. It worked, I was closer to Mick C than before. It had cost be a bit so I plodded for a while but heading towards Withins ruin I started trying to reel Mick and his group in.
I struggled to keep up, especially when he set off down hill at speed, but my catching him up seemed as much a downer for him as it was a boost for me. I never saw him again once we got to Bronte bridge. I did make a new friend in John and he dragged me from Penistone to Leeshaw Reservoir via a track I had not used before. We slowed to a fast walk as we climbed to Top of Stairs but not before we had spotted and caught up with Will, another Kryptonite. This was possibly the worst snow of the day and where it was thawing there were holes deeper than my legs.  The very icy water on the top was a shock but we soon warmed up running down to the next CP where Will assured us there would be a cup of tea. Sadly the kettle had gone cold so grabbing more food we pushed on.
We got a bit seperated on the next section but regrouped at New Bridge where there was tea. Again we got seperated as Will munched sandwiches and I stopped for tea but soon after Delf End we were back together. The bogs up by the air shafts were wet and the path by the fence line was a muddy mess but we knew we had cracked it now. The walkers that we were catching up were extremely friendly and every single one tried to step off the path to let us by. I now dared to believe that maybe I could be first lady. Not content with that I now hoped I could beat last years time. We made good time to Jersusalem Farm and knew that it was pretty much all downhill for a while. It was also all tarmac - good or bad? At the time it was almost a relief as it was easy running but I knew I would pay for it later with sore hips and knees.  John slipped off the pace but Will had the bit between his teeth and set what seemed to me to be a furious pace. Passing Oats Royd Mill we spotted two more runners and I recognised one as my local rival Graham. By the main road at Luddenden Foot we had almost caught them. They shot through the CP and carried on along the canal and we turned back to the road - their way was marginally quicker. And then it was the last long lane up to Sowerby. It had been drizzling for a bit and now it got heavier.  Will steadily pulled away and we both managed to edge past the canalside runners. Now I had a big decision- could I remember the back way in or not? If I took it but got it wrong Graham might catch up back up.So I followed Will around the church and along the road. I couldn't keep up but kept trying. It was only now (honest) that I realised first lady would mean 1000 ultra points.
As I finshed I thought I had beaten last years time.Once I got home I realsied infact that it was exactly the same 6 hours 50.The heavy drizzle meant we could not lie out on the cricket pitch this year but it was very sociable in the club house. I refueled with chilli, tinned fruit and countless cups of tea. I even managed a shower while the water was still hot, even if it did mean sharing and changing in the corridor. I rewarded myself with a pint and chatted as I waited for my driver to complete the course. Thanks for driving Dave - and of couse you want to do Round Rotherham now.


  1. Congrats Karen! First Lady finish ... wow a great achievement :) I was over on the wolds all day at the Woldsman. Look forward to a catch up soon. Best Wishes and very well done! Mike

  2. Mike I keep looking at the Woldsman and then find it clashes - like this year. Is it a good route? I don't really know across that way very well although I was born in Licoln and my mum is from Yorkshire. The first lady felt good although as my time was the same as last year there could easily have been runners that could have beaten me. Easy run at a LDA this weekend I hope and then just the Fellsman to prepare for.
    see you soon.