Tuesday, 10 August 2010
Runfurther series race 9 of 12. Long Tour of Bradwell. 33.3mi, 6,727'. 08/08/2010.
The LToB is another beautiful toughie – beautiful because of the Derbyshire countryside it traverses, and tough because of the tortured up-and-down route. Three route changes (big improvements I have to say) added just over a mile to this, the second running of this event, to make it 33.3 miles (according to Tracklogs).
We gathered at the Bradwell Sports Pavilion on Sunday morning at the beginning of yet another warm, dry, pleasant day (thank goodness it wasn’t as hot as it was last year). There was plenty of time to get registered, get our SPORTident electronic timing dibbers attached and catch up with friends old and new before wandering up the road to the start area.
At 9am we were sent on our way up the hill (of course), through the big ugly cement works to the bottom of Pin Dale and the first dibbing point at 1 mile, and so began a full day’s dibbing at 16 checkpoints.
A climb up Pin Dale and Dirtlow Rake brought us to a right turn onto the Limestone Way that took us down Cave Dale to Castleton (4.5 miles). That was quickly followed by a climb up to Hollins Cross (I’ve never seen horses up there before) and descent to Edale and the first biscuit. There then followed the zigzag climb up The Nab towards Ringing Roger. A bit of heather-bashing eventually brought us to checkpoint 5 at the Druid’s Stone. Appropriately for such a location the clouds had rolled in and hung menacingly over our heads while threatening us with drizzle. It never came to anything.
The new fell descent route off Rowland Cote Moor had me hopping, huffing and puffing, but it was better than last year’s boggy drainage gully descent, and the height was soon lost to give us an easier run once more across the valley toward the next climb to Back Tor. We soon slowed to a walk on the steep climb and left turn to the summit of Lose Hill. The ugly cement works came into view again. That sight would be our friend towards the end of the day because it would signify an imminent finish. From there it was a long, (mostly) runnable descent past the surprise photographer to checkpoint 7 (13.9 miles) at Killhill Bridge.
A climb around the flank of Win Hill brought Ladybower Reservoir into view across the heather and bracken-clad hillsides. The water level was lower than it was last year. A descent through the conifer plantation brought us to the sharp right turn and dibber point that some runners overshot, and then came the second route change – straight on past the dam along the road and onto the railway track bed, which presumably would have been used to transport materials to build the dam. The relatively flat jog was difficult. I wanted ups I could walk or downs I could run. I always find this in-between, neither up nor down, particularly tiring. No matter, we were soon through checkpoint 9 (17.6 miles) and heading towards the left turn down the fields to Bamford Mills. I did titter to myself when on the way I saw a footpath sign for Shatton. “No thanks, I went before I left.”
After another dibber point in the middle of the bridge over the River Derwent, we climbed through Bamford and onto Leeside Road, the so-called Escalator. It was steep and straight up the hill. I suspect it to be another legacy of the old quarry workings, where rail wagons would most likely have been winched up by chain and let down by gravity. Once at the top we were on the old route and easier road and track that led eventually to the top of Stanage Edge. Trouble is, by this point, running is becoming quite difficult and the inevitable walk/shuffle is beginning to kick in. The dibber point on the way really is off-route. I’m not surprised I and so many others missed it last year.
Checkpoint 12 (23 miles) at Upper Burbage Bridge brought the third route change, most runners choosing the easterly coach track. Although a little longer, it was so easy and runnable compared to the boggy sheep trod along the bottom of the valley that was the official route last year. That brought us to the next dibber point that was tied to a tree that overhung the river and required a scramble down a very steep bank to reach. Someone had already dropped a map printout in the water below. No-one was bothering to climb down to retrieve it.
A jog beside Burbage Brook among the throng of people soon brought us off the beaten track again where no-one except the ultra-runner dares to tread, up and through man-eating bracken to checkpoint 14 (25.9 miles) at Bole Hill. This was a tree-clad disused quarry, which provided another steep, straight, escalator-like railway incline, but downhill this time. A descent across the main Manchester – Sheffield railway and alongside the River Derwent brought us eventually to checkpoint 15, Leadmill Bridge (27.9 miles). I needed another charge of energy to the legs but my Coke had run dry and there was no more to be had. I made do with electrolyte and a pork pie instead. The sun was warm as I gave chase for the other runners who had just left the checkpoint.
Over the next 5.5 miles to the finish via one more dibber point I tickled the throttle to eke the best shuffle that I could muster on less than 5-star fuel. On the approach to Bradwell Edge, the parascenders filled the air with colour as they glided back and forth along the ridge line. As the cement works came into view for the final time and I began my final descent beneath the whistling airborne ones, the campanologists let rip with a flurry of bell ringing from the church in the valley below. I felt unworthy ;-)
I made my final dib at the Pavilion in 7:29:24 – a PB by 35 minutes. Then followed a couple of hours of lounging on the grass in the sunshine drinking tea and eating whatever we could lay our hands on, with everyone reminiscing on what a strangely tough event this is.
My pictures are here – more Derbyshire beauty to absorb.