Tuesday 12 April 2016

Calderdale Hike

Race number 2 in the Runfurther series again. We have sometimes run this in glorious weather and sunbathed on the cricket field at the end. The weather forecast suggested this was not going to happen this year. Bob and I parked the van just before dark on Friday and were joined by Carmine for a night cap and natter. It rained overnight (and there was a party at the cricket club pavilion) which combined with Bob's bad cold and snoring meant a disturbed night and 5.45am arrived all to soon.

Carmine was a great help putting up the flags and banners which meant Bob could make use of the early start, eat his breakfast and set off early with the 'long walkers'.

We hoped this would mean we might finish closer together in time. I seemed to have hours to spare but only just noticed the change to one of the CPs and even then did not consider whether it meant a different route might be wise. I did at least have time to present Les Hill with a prize I have kept for him since 2014.

Before 9am we were assembled outside and trying to get used to the days weather. At 6am long tights had seemed sensible but now I was thinking perhaps I should have stuck to my original plan of shorts.

I also had two thin thermals on, but not for long. This year more people had recceed the route and the field split more evenly. The steep steps were treacherous and I wished I had gone another way but even though we skidded and picked our way down (and little Dave fell) it was faster than the road route. Runners on the shorter 26 mile route set off with us so it was difficult to know how your pace was and I hoped I was not off at too fast a trot. Probably not as Nicky S was soon out of sight and Lucy on the shorter course also pulled steadily away over the first 10 miles. I was however surprised to find I was not the most timid on some of the greasy descents and was able to catch a small group, guide them through to the main road and into the Ryeburn valley. Somewhere around here a settled into running with Simon and in the end we stayed together for virtually all of the race. I was enjoying the day out but suspect I was not truly racing as I had time to notice the wonderful old farm buildings before we headed out onto the moors. Here I struggled to run and should really have pushed myself harder. I did catch Simon again but only by taking a better line down to the goyt. There was no evil hail storm this year and I was soon past the Rishworth reservoir CP and moving towards the M62. Last year I had stuck to the fell route and been overtaken by Andy. This year after shouts and waves with SportSunday photographers David and Laura I opted for the road and verge route. Simon came with me. Despite face planting after tripping on a metal hoop of litter and walking the steepest bit of road after the motorway we caught and overtook runners on the moorland route. Running back along the Pennine Way path allowed us to see who was just behind us and it does help spur you on.

 The flagstones across towards Blackstone Edge were easy (no bog and no ice) and I found my trod that would allow us to break through the lower end of the ridge to join yet another goyt. The terrain down is a little rough but the run along the goyt is flat, wide and easy. It is possibly further than over the tops but I knew the top would be a peaty mess with boulders to trip tired legs. Again, it paid off and we overtook several faster runners. Two of these who arrived at the CP just behind us must have then made other errors because we never saw them again.
Not race day but this guy with horse and cart went up and down twice
At the White House we refilled water and I grabbed a sandwich. It said jam on the packet but there was so little jam it was hard to identify the colour never mind the flavour! Simon was now appreciating my route finding on the fastest lines and it was helping me to keep up a reasonable if not blasting pace. The route past the Moorcock pub is definitely the best way to Sladen Fold and the canal. It was warm here and I was regretting my long thick tights. I did stop to remove one top.

It never occurred to me that moving the 'stepping stones' CP to Coolam meant there might be an alternative route but I believe some did go north along the canal before turning west. To be honest I was just irritated that it now drew more people onto my route near Trough End after the CP. We flogged up to the moor and the wind turbines.

The new road is now very runnable but this is a significant hill and I wonder if those who stayed on the canal tow path and approached Coolam from the east had much less climb. I will need to check a map to see whether this is a better option. The path after the turbine road was boggy and wet. Up ahead I spotted an orange shirt and knew it would be Bob.
I had been wondering when I would catch his two hour lead. The new CP is a small diversion- apparently the radio reception is better there- and then we were off up Trough End.
NOT race day- going the opposite way!
Bob was still ahead and although we were gaining it took an age to catch him.  He had taken a tumble and bashed his head but was moving well on the path towards Slate Pit despite this and his cold. We chatted briefly before Simon and I pulled away and on to the roadside CP. Several CPs this year had bananas I was enjoying them- never can tell for sure what I will like and what will go down well on the day.

Perhaps the entry numbers were down this year but I seemed to be running miles without seeing other runners compared to the previous year. We had overtaken walkers but not seen any runners since the White House and in fact did not see any from here to the end. It meant I settled into an OK pace but was not chasing as hard as perhaps I could have done. The path near the mountain bike track was less muddy than I expected and we were soon down in Cornholme on the edge of Todmorden.
So many turbines now
I took this next section far too easily and plodded up hill before a chat with the marshalls at the top. Running but not really racing? It was super muddy along the section to the golf club and this slowed me a bit. All of this section is shared with the Haworth Hobble and the navigation is therefore easy.

On the climb to Lumbutts church I took the opportunity to eat and drink  more before grabbing yet another banana and refilling my water bottle.
Stone sheep in Mankinholes
Stoodley Pike stood proud on the hill top and it was a relief to know we did not have to climb all the way up there today. The landslip on London Road was a mess of mud but soon negotiated. This track should be very runnable but we were getting tired. I looked across to Heptonstall and urged my legs to feel happy they were not being thrashed on the descent to Hebden and the climb up to Heptonstall.

We trotted on and past even more walkers now people who had done the shorter route had joined back on. Descending to Dauber bridge felt tough on the steep concrete track and eroded path. It is quite direct but steep down and then just as steeply up to Nab End. Last year Chris caught me here and dragged me along at quite a pace. Today I was setting the pace, but not as hard. Nearly there now. I knew I had not been trying as hard because once past the last CP I was able to run and run, whereas last year I was close to throwing up and had to walk at least twice. I pulled ahead of Simon and concentrated on trying hard to get inside the 7 hours. It was not quite to be; 7 hours 1 minute. It wasn't a sprint finish through the village and I did contemplate leaping the wall from the tennis club and across the cricket field but what is a minute really?  I was surprised to hand over my tally card and see Bob already sitting there. He had retired at Slate Pit after the CP staff were concerned at a head injury. In fact his ribs now hurt from landing on his poles and his cold was not helping matters. I thanked Simon for his company and settled into some serious refuelling (baked potato, tea, yogurts, more tea, fruit salad, more tea!) Some people I think I only run because then I can eat and eat but I am sure they are wrong.

I managed to cheer Mick C  and Carmine home and only just missed Nick when I was getting changed. Andy appeared a bit later having been forced to walk by his cold/ man flu. Dick also got round despite the snow that hit the later runners for the last 45 minutes or so.
Eventually I went to the van to change and get clean. At first I had thought I was just 8 minutes slower than last year which is perhaps OK given the mud and few runners to chase. Then I realised it was 18 minutes and I was more disappointed. Nicky had a great run finishing in 6 hrs 18 which just proves that I only get my name on the trophy when the best runners do not turn up. This was all made more interesting coming on the back of a conversation with Carmine the night before. He now has a coach and is concentrating on fewer races, more specific training and so aiming for quality. I am sure that this would improve my pace too but somehow it is not for me. I do not really plan my year and have races that I target to win or even do especially well at. I just pick races I like, fit them all in the best I can and enjoy my long days out. Picking just a few and training just for them would for me remove some of the joy. I am competitive in some ways because I hate the idea of dnf, will push myself to complete almost whatever the issue and I do like beating people and doing well but not so competitive that I want to improve pace at the loss of some long days out. Anyway, race 2 of the Runfurther season completed. Now I just have to coax the sore throat into disappearing before the Fellsman next week and figure out what to do about the old injury flare up in my lower left leg.
Weird shape, all lumpy, but now also sore all down shin
The joys of getting older!

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