Tuesday, 5 April 2016

A few more miles in the legs (and a wimp out)

I discovered the LDWA Blubberhouses 25 event back in 2011 and I used it when I needed lots of local and cheap long races again in 2013, my ultra year. It's not really so far along the A59 and is a lovely route. This year we went across the night before and slept in the van so we even got a lie in. Fog or mist were forecast but when we emerged at 7am there was neither and the night's rain had stopped. I never know who I will see at events over the Pennines but as usual there were some friendly faces like Adrian on registration and runners from  Harrogate and Otley who I had not seen for some time.

Registration was swift and I went to check the wall map in case there were any changes or bits I could not remember. I hoped that my shoe choice would not let me down. I had opted for Hokas as I knew that the stony track from the moors to Bolton Abbey would be hard on my feet. The latest ones don't look quite so daft and have fairly good grip for most trails.

After the compulsory multiple toilet visits I decided it was time to take some layers off and aclimatise outside, just as the air started to feel damp! Reluctantly I put my cag on, all the time knowing that I would be far too warm unless it poured down.

A quick word from the RO and we were off. This race is quite unusual in that it starts with a fairly long and even steep downhill. The pace was furious and before the dam I was worrying. A brief queue at the self clip gave some respite but not enough. I should have gone for a proper warm up instead of chatting but it was too late now. I even had to slow to a walk a couple of times and felt a bit pathetic as other runners bounded past. It should be easy on the well graded path along the side of the reservoirs which just made walking even more embarrassing. A stop to remove my cag did not help matters. I was therefore surprised to see Helen and others only just ahead as we reached the A59 for the first crossing and this motivated me as we turned up the Washburn valley.

This was muddier than I expected but the path is wide and there was no real fear of slipping over. I worked hard to gain back some places but then Helen and others slipped ahead again by staying on the right hand side of the river and avoiding a small lump of hill. Most of us seemed to just flow through this CP with very few stopping for food or water.

A short section on lanes upped the pace yet again and it stayed that way until we crossed the stile onto the moor. Even here the forecast mist was missing and we could see runners up ahead. At last the pace for many of us was settling down and although we ran most of the big track we sensibly conserved some energy on the steeper hills.
Arriving at the Rocking Stone shooting house we were greeted by cheery marshalls who just seemed a little disappointed that nobody wanted to stop and go inside for food. We were all on a mission - off on the big tracks and down, down, down to Bolton Park farm. The track is quite stony and as it is sunken there is no grass verge. This is where I was glad to be wearing my Hokas although even then I switched to the grass as soon as we reached the fields. The path through the woods above the Abbey seemed shorter than I remembered and it was nice to have enough route knowledge to shout back a guy who almost missed the self clip. We trudged up the walled lane and then shot through the next CP. I knew I must eat and so grabbed a homemade flapjack from my sack. It wasn't the best place to try to eat as there were so many stiles and I was still trying to run fast.

 Climbing up out of Deerstones Helen caught me up and we overtook a younger girl at the CP. The climb up Beamsey Beacon was the last big climb but it was soon over.

 The next section over the tops to Round Hill was muddy but not too bad. I settled in on Helen's heels and we made great progress. Leaving Round Hill and turning east was a different matter. As the path got steeper and very narrow I lost control. It apparently looked quite comical from behind as my arms and legs windmilled in the hope of keeping me upright. I knew it was a lost cause and just waited for a soft spot of heather to collapse in. The flatter section before Ellercarr Pike was wet and everyone was slipping regardless of footwear. From this CP I thought we had 5 more miles and so was pleasantly surprised to be told it should be less than 4 as the whole race was no longer 25 miles. I managed quite well along the first lanes but the pace was up again and before Timble I allowed my legs to win and I slowed to a walk. With less than 2 miles to go this was a bit pathetic but I did not have a race head on. Perhaps I needed more food and had just not realised or perhaps I was just being a wimp.

I soon got going again and enjoyed the muddy green lane and fields back to the woods by the reservoir.  A skid at a gate pulled my leg and climbing down over the stile to the dam wall was an effort. I did run across the dam but then gave in again on the road for a short section. The few fields to the top are too steep to run fast but I did jog up most and then the short section of road and back to the hall. My garmin said 3 hr 52 and a bit which they rounded up to 3 hrs 53. So I have done this race 3 times 2011, 2013, 2016 and each time despite different ground conditions, very different weather etc my time has been exactly the same. I guess being positive I could argue that 5 years on I should be pleased not to have got any slower but I know in my heart that with a bit more guts I could have shaved off a minute or two at the end this year. No point saying 'If only..'
It was great to sit and chat with Helen and the locals. The food was wonderful- really tasty stew that slipped down a treat and so many cups of tea. I did boil a kettle in the van and wash before enjoying a cup of coffee in the sunshine and stretching like a good girl.

I wandered down to the fields just in time to see Bob and a small group with Sarah F and Matt Po appear over the stiles. A great day and rounded off with a leisurely drive to Ilkley, more coffee and sun plus a visit to family.

 Even better when we arrived home the boys had cooked the tea.

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