Monday, 23 March 2015

The week post Hobble turned out to be busier than I intended: I blame the weather. Monday was climbing as usual and then a jog round on Beacon Fell helping kids with orienteering. Wednesday dawned so beautiful that I could not resist the temptation to be out on the hills. I drove to Fell Foot and went for a deliberately longish slow run.

As I ran across the fields and then out onto Saddle Fell I saw nobody. I went for a bit of an explore through peat bogs and heather  before I got to Tottridge.

 It slowed me down, gave me time to admire the views and still got the climbing in  my legs.

I spent a minute of two paying my respects to Bill Smith and then headed down to the Trough Road. Here I met my first walkers of the day- out doing a recee of the LDWA 100. Sadly this clashes with one of our Runfurther races this year and I cannot do it even though it is so local.As I ran along the grassy path by the river I scared tens of pheasants up and the noise became quite deafening.

 I passed a couple of walkers at the start of Langden but was soon on my own again. I jogged up past Langden Castle and crossed the river ready for the pull up to Fiensdale Head (I had promised Bob I would go nowhere near the old Fiensdale route after my escapade last summer). The top came sooner than I expected and I took a breather on the flag stones and looked out over the Fylde.

The rest was an easy jaunt across to Paddy's Pole, my favourite ridge to Parlic and then after a quick look at all the paragliders a quick drop down to the cottage and the car.

 It would not be ideal preparation for the final street O that evening but the day was too good to miss out. In fact my evening run wasn't so bad either. Thursday was dry and sunny too so we went for a slow bike ride down to the parks and out on the old tram way and back before I shot off to Beacon Fell again.  I didn't do much but ran the kids course slowly and with tired legs just to set a base time on my garmin. Somewhere in the next 24 hours I got confused. I think it was thinking about all my friends doing the Hardmoors 55 that did it. I set my alarm for early on Saturday and set off for Bury. Driving through Holcombe it suddenly dawned on me that LDWA events are usually on Sunday and I was 24 hours early. What an idiot! Ah well. It was dry, warm and starting to get sunny. I made the most of it by doing a recee of parts I was unsure of.

It is an event I have only done once before and although most is straight forward there are a couple of tricky bits.

The bog above Holcombe Moor was wet but nothing like as bad as it can be and by the time I had circuited Bull Hill and was heading for Peel Tower the ground was unusually dry.
Less welcome

The weather was improving by the hour but I sensibly decided to head for home and save myself for Sunday. A whole afternoon sat in the garden reading- wow, spring is definitely on the way. Sunday saw a repeat of the early alarm and Bob decided to come with me. We arrived in plenty of time for him to get an entry on the shorter of the Two Crosses routes and for me to chat to friends. I should point out that Bob had done Park run and been on Pendle on Saturday.

It would be very different to two years ago when I added 3 miles or so before hand to make it an ultra and then we had cold weather and snow on the  ground.  There seem to be more and more runners doing these events and the two distances start together. I tried to tell myself that perhaps those sprinting off were doing the shorter route.

 Some were but it made no difference I could not have gone faster. I was keen to stay in contact with other runners across the first fields and a couple of tricky turns but after Affetside I was fairly confident of the route. Running down the road before the first cross I spotted an injured Josie out taking photos and cheering us on. I was being pushed for pace here by Pete and another guy but fortunately I pulled away and felt under less pressure.

 The first checkpoint at Turton Tower had jelly babies and that was all I stopped for.  By now it was very warm and I had not only shed my windproof but was wishing I hadn't put two layers on. The moors looked superb, although Peel Tower off to the east looked an intimidatingly long way.

I reached the next CP alone although I knew Pete and the others would not be far behind. I prayed I could remember the way through to the next track. It is my local area but the tussocks, bogs and marsh grass make it confusing and I can still remember Ian Charters and I going wrong in the mist on an Anglezarke Amble a few years ago. I knew roughly the way I should be heading so I just picked the best line I could and it worked. I caught Carl up here and although he was faster than me once we hit the track I used him to pull me aling. Pete told me afterwards that I just seemed to stretch further and further away from here. Carl and I grabbed a jelly baby from the marshalls and set off on the climb to Darwen Moor. He was a stonger climber but I had the confidence of knowing where I was going. We ran together for the next few miles and although it hurt I am sure it improved my overall time. Once we crossed the culvert on the moor I expected very wet feet but although there were some boggy bits it was overall as dry as I have ever known it.

We were down at Cadshaw in no time and chatting away. The last few metres along the reservoir were starting to hurt so I decided to refuel and the CP and let Carl get ahead a bit. This CP must be in the running for the award of best LDWA food. The tables were laden with just about everything you could ask for, including full cheeseboard and grapes! I grabbed a sausage roll, sandwich and half a cup of soup. Drinking the soup as I jogged over the dam was interesting but it all gave me extra energy. Up to now I had only had jelly babies and a finger of fudge. Oh and half a bottle of Chia charge.  I could still see Carl up ahead and made a pact with myself not to let the gap widen too much. After the dam the two routes converge again and so the next few miles were spent passing walkers on the shorter route. Despite this I arrived at Old Cote Farm on my own and had a few moments of doubt as I contoured the hill that hid the people in front for a while.  The grassy track had no puddles and was very runnable plus I could still see Carl up ahead. The climb up to the maggot farm would be the last real climb so I made a big effort and at least it didn't smell today. I was on my own again and it was a surprise to crest the big peat hag and see streamers blowing to show us the way. I don't remember them two years ago in the mist! There were walkers just ahead and I spotted Carl over to my right by the abandoned vehicle (how it every got up there in the first place is beyond me). It seemed a shame after their efforts but I declined the spirits on offer at Naughty Corner and set off after Carl again.

The red flags were up and we could hear not just shooting but the rat-a tat of machine guns. Not a day to take a short cut then.  I skirted below Pilgrims Cross and was glad that yesterday I had taken time to study in and read the carvings on all 4 sides.

Just as I was getting tired I caught Helen A and her kind words of admiration put a new spring in my step.

Peel Tower was open today but there was no time to stop and go inside. It is pretty much all downhill from here and I knew I should be able to cut loads of time off my last effort.
Not quite so sunny on Saturday
I whizzed through the last CP at the end of the army road and headed for the golf course. Sadly Carl was somewhere ahead and getting lost but I didn't know this at the time. I shot across the road at the church and spotted Bob on the old rail-track. He claimed not to have seen the runner in front? odd?

He left his companion and ran with me for a bit but by now I knew the end was in sight and I so wanted to knock 30 minutes off my time. It hurt and in the end I had to be content with 4 hours 17, so 27 minutes faster than two years ago. Before I had chance to go back out to take photos Bob appeared and so did Carl.

 We then spent a well deserved hour eating, drinking and chatting with Albert, Josie, Pete and Dave. I can never get over quite how many cups of tea I can manage after these events and the soup was wonderful.

What a great weekend.

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