Monday, 14 March 2016

The start of the 2016 Ultra season (aka pain, sweat and tears)

A pre-season favourite is the Anglezarke Amble but at almost 25 miles it does not count as an ultra despite the hills and mud. I knew this event would be hard after 3 months of walking and very little running. I started slowly and it paid off. I finished feeling better than usual and was only two minutes slower than two years ago. The weather was kind and the ground less boggy than I anticipated- just normal Pennine Moor swamp. It was a good confidence booster that perhaps the year would be OK despite the lack of winter training and despite waiting for the results of an MRI scan on what might be a neuroma on my foot.

Our pilgrimage to Haworth has been an annual event since 2009 and starts the ultra season proper. I love the race for so many reasons.
Yep. I started outside the Fleece.
I see friends that I have missed over the winter, the scenery is beautiful, the RO and team and great and there is an interesting mix of fast elite runners and real plodders. This year we were blessed with mild weather and some sunshine plus the ground so badly flooded a few months ago was now just 'normally' wet in the expected places.
Runfurther's new sponsor Pete Bland
After a night in the van we were up early to erect flags and banners before being among the first to register. Even so the time quickly evaporated and we were off the the cobbles in front of the Fleece Inn.

I deliberately chose a position far back but was surprised to have to walk in the crush. No worries as there are plenty of miles to run and the crowds had thinned by the time we left the historic core of the town. Not warming up properly meant I was forced to walk the odd stretch even before the first stile but I tried not to panic. I was trying my new Hokas and they coped favourably with the mud and wet stones. By Withins ruin I was enjoying it more and the descent on the big flagged path is now super fast.
Thanks Sportsunday
As we hit the goyt path I caught Nick and after the reservoir I passed Phil who had started fast but has done more cycling than running recently. I ran straight through the CP at Widdop reservoir as dry biscuits are not my thing when I am running.
Bob on the goyt a bit later
I could see Rachel up ahead making a come back from a serious injury and wondered if I could catch her (not yet). I used the steep bit to eat a piece of chia flapjack and plodded on up. I got my second wind at the top and was pleased to run quite strongly towards Long causeway. A chat with Nigel Aston who had not raced since September took my mind off the track and then I spotted the distinctive style of Andy up ahead. I told myself to not let him get away. The road section should be an easy run but I ate a bit more and had a drink plus a chat with Albert and Tony who were running on tired legs from Transgrancanaria. Everyone ignored the footpath and used the big track down to the farm which was a huge relief. It was as muddy as usual here and at the next farm. I chatted with Rachel about jobs and work life balance and we were soon breezing through the CP with the hot dogs. We stayed together pretty much all the way to the main road below Lumbutts and collected Noel Hogan on the way. My 'long cut' at the main road proved quicker yet again but they soon caught me on the uphill towards Mankinholes. I know this route so well now that it was quite a shock to have to shout people instructions a couple of times, but good to know new runners are finding the event. Around here my foot started its thing and I knew it was the way it would be now til the end. The top fields were very wet but mercifully short. I passed on the offer of whiskey at the YHA but did take a doughnut and also a pain killer from Noel. He is my guardian angel having offered me cold pizza on the UTMB when I could keep nothing else down and now pain relief today.

 Plodding along the 'London Road' I dropped further and further back and then the pain in my foot exploded. I sat down and cried. At first it was pain and then frustration. Strangers asking if I was OK was embarrassing enough but then I saw Andy climbing up. No chance I was going to let him see me sat and crying. Strong words to self " Quit or get on with it and man up". Mike Sellors had climbed Stoodley Pike to take pictures as his broken foot is not yet mended enough to race. It was wonderful to see a smiley face and he made me laugh even though my bottom lip was still a bit wobbly.Noel sadly dropped behind struggling with cramp as we shot off to Hebden.
Oh for a zip wire across to the church!
Perhaps the pain killer then kicked in but I ran hard down to Hebden with just a moment to admire the view across to Heptonstall. I passed Rachel having a toilet break and caught Andy in the town. The next bit was interesting and just goes to show what different strengths we have. Andy was determined to avoid a PW and announced he was going to run, slowly, all the way up to Heptonstall. For me this would have been certain death and I would have been knackered at the top. I stomped and he ran. He pulled away a little but we reached Horse Bridge together. I quickly refilled my water and we left together. Again once we hit the lane he said he would run to the top, and he did. I stomped and ran the odd bit but could not maintain it. We reached the Lane Head CP together. The pull up the next road seemed tough and suddenly the pain in my foot, which had been manageable, exploded again. I burst into tears and hung on to the bridge. Andy did the right thing and just ignored me. A few more strong words to myself and I got going again, albeit with a rather strange gait as I tried to  take the pressure off my foot. From the top of Walshaw Moor I know the race is just about done and today the Hokas gave me just that extra bit of cushioning to cope with the rocky lane. I worked hard keeping ahead and trying to catch others. Barney drove past and pomped his car horn to encourage me. Pennistone Hill is lovely but at this stage I just wanted to be able to stop. I couldn't hear any feet behind me but Andy must have been close. The lane down to the flagged path to the church could not come soon enough and then there was just the short stretch to the finish. It was a relief to stop but even then with a shoe off it took about half an hour for the pain to ease. In the meantime poor Bill J and Josie had to put up with my tears. The only shoes I have with a wider toe box would not have gripped enough today and the Hokas were good for overall cushioning. I just need to get my right foot sorted. It didn't spoil a lovely day out on the hills but I am getting fed up with it. 5 hours 37 ish so not a PW but not as good as the 5 hours 28 last year.
Lucy below Stoodley Pike
 Lucy Colquhoun was first lady in 5 hours 10 and Josie 2nd in 5.27.

I ended up with a bottle of wine as third lady but in reality I was beaten by a lady running with a partner and she was a vet50 too ( I did try to find her to give her the wine but she had gone). Ian S and Ken S ran as an awesome pair and won in 4 hrs 16.
Runfurther poster boy
Refuelled with veg and pasta and numerous cups of tea I sat chatting as we waited for the prize giving. Andy used this opportunity to present me with all my Runfurther prizes from the end of last year. (I missed the AGM and prize giving when we were in NZ).

Sadly I missed Bob finishing but did get Dick as he finished.
Bob on London Road
Bob missed his presentation as 1st V70 and 3rd V60 from last year but Andy did leave his prize and certificates with me.

So laden down with a trophy, UD vest, Grand Slam hoody, certificates and wine I struggled out to the van to get changed ready for out committee meeting in the pub.

So what have I learnt? Ultra running is at least 60% mental, my foot hurts but it is not impossible to continue after a few minutes and it is wonderful to be out in the fresh air on the hills so smile. Now we have a month of what should be hard training and reccees ready for the Calderdale Hike and the Fellsman which are only a week apart this year.


  1. Hi Karen. I see that you have used several of my photos in your blog. I do specifically ask that people ask permission before using my copyrighted images outside of facebook. You can get back in my good books by donating to bloodwise; here's the link:

  2. Sorry Scott, thought it had been done. Donation now made and good luck with the fundraising