Race 10 of 12 in the 2011 Runfurther series.
33.3 miles with 6,747' of ascent, according to Tracklogs.
I was spending another weekend away, this time in Wetton with my brother Julian, to run this race on Saturday and reserve judgement on whether to totter round Dovedale Dipper on Sunday. My brother would be running Dovedale Dipper.
My big toenails had settled down just in time for me to ‘toe the line’ (not the rocks) at 9am in Bradwell. They have been killed once again and are held in place by plasters and tape. I wonder how many more times they can grow back under such abuse; it takes over a year. Thankfully they are no longer painful as long as the plasters do their job.
I was not the only Lakeland 100 runner present. The other Runfurther Grand Slammer Greg Crowley was there of course, but so were Kevin Perry (who finished the L100 5th in 24:58), Stuart Walker (who finished 8th in 25:24!) and Mick Cooper, who always overtakes me and finishes strongly in every event we both do. Danny Aldus was also there, though he retired at Dalemain after 58 miles last week, so his legs would be relatively fresh. ;-) ;-) It was also good to chat to fellow bloggers / forumites Simon 'Fellmonkey' Green and Andrew Harris; and Jim Mann for the first time since Hardmoors 55; and Runfurther creator Mark Hartell, who was on flag duty as well as running the race. It goes without saying that the long chat with Runfurther Karen was as spiffing as ever :-)
For the second weekend in a row we would be using SportIdent dibbers to record our progress around the course for instant split times gratification at the finish.
The sky was overcast, heavy showers were forecast and we could smell rain in the air when we climbed out of Bradwell through the cement works and up Pindale. However the ground was dry and I ‘made hay while the sun shone’. That is, I covered as much ground as possible while it remained dry and non-slippery. Even most of Cavedale was dry apart from the lower reaches with the drainage trickle, at which point I minced my way down to avoid personal catastrophe, since my La Sportiva Crosslites grip like ice on wet limestone. (Yes, I was finally wearing the new Crosslites and guess what, they were dead comfortable. If only I'd followed my original instincts for the Lakeland 100 I could still have two viable big toenails now.)
Descending Cavedale gingerly.
CP1 at the bottom of Pindale, CP2 above the top of Cavedale, CP3 at the bottom of Cavedale and CP4 on the road out of Edale passed in dry conditions, but a slight drizzle mist on the wind made itself felt as we climbed the flanks of Ringing Roger to CP5 at the Druid’s Stone. It never came to anything. I later learned that just a few miles north was already getting a thorough soaking.
Drizzle approaches on the climb towards Ringing Roger.
From the Druid's Stone an off-piste steep descent across heather and down a rock face or two was required to pick up the wall down to Woodhouse Farm, where we had special permission to use the drive down to the road (this is not a right of way and is out of bounds at any other time). After that big descent to the valley we were soon hit by the climb back up to Back Tor, just along the ridge from Hollins Cross where we had recently crossed on our outward leg between Castleton and Edale. A left turn took us via CP6 to the summit of Lose Hill / Ward’s Piece. The forecast rain still hadn’t arrived.
A steep, initially technical descent off Lose Hill eventually took us across fields and past the farm to CP7 at Killhill Bridge. The race organiser was marshalling in the field to guide us across the footbridge and ensure we did not accidentally stray from the trodden path and enrage the farmer.
I found myself alone as I departed CP7. I had only done 14 miles but I had already slowed. I needed fuel so I guzzled an Alpro soya milk drink as I walked past the cemetery and camp site and along the cut-through to Aston. When I emerged onto the lane I saw a dead badger on the verge on the other side. It must have been a recent kill because it didn’t smell yet, and I can tell you there had been some pungent stenches of death from out-of-sight rotting carcasses as I progressed around the route.
I took the footpath left towards Win Hill and it started to rain properly, though still not enough to warrant waterproofs. All I needed was my cap to keep the rain off my glasses. I ran along the narrow path that contoured its way towards Ladybower Reservoir. The wet bracken with its characteristic ‘sweaty’ smell slapped against my legs. The well-marked CP8 that had been long coming signified the sharp right turn through the gate and down to the track beside the reservoir. Water levels were a little low and this shower would do nothing to replenish supplies. The rain was already easing off. The old quarry railway bed that was used to transport stone to build the dam provided the ‘easy’ run in to CP9 (17.6mi.). However by this stage on this event the run never comes easily. Today was a little more laboured than usual, for obvious reasons. I had been caught by other runners and I focussed on them to pull me along as I tried to ignore the heavy legs that were complaining bitterly.
CP10, situated in the middle of the multi-staged crossing of the River Derwent at Bamford, came very quickly. It was followed by the steep drag up ‘The Escalator’, officially known as Bamford Clough, which brought us up to the lane towards Stanage Edge. The sun was out, the ground had dried already and I could not believe how lucky we were with the conditions. I got into the groove and ran while the going was good. I looked at the expansive views to my right and felt utterly content.
On the way to Stanage Edge.
CP11, easily missed in a first running of this event, is set back to the left off our path and I was looking out for it. Once that had been dibbed I could switch off and walk/shuffle my way up to Stanage Edge and along the rocks among the walkers and rock climbers to CP12 at Upper Burbage Bridge (23mi.). I wasn’t the only one who was feeling depleted by this point. We sat down in the warm sunshine to refill water bottles and electrolytes before setting off on the final 10 miles. The left-hand route (track) might not be the shortest but it is the best graded and the most runnable. We soon arrived at the road and crossed to descend steeply to CP13, hanging precipitously in its usual place above a vertical drop down to Burbage Brook.
My legs were complaining but I really enjoy the next section with its interesting navigation, so I ‘ran’ as best I could in the familiar warm sunshine that has always blessed us on this event. I had eaten again so energy levels had returned for the time being. Running from memory I picked up the almost invisible path up to the right through the bracken and above the woods. I pulled away from the following group but before CP14 I was struggling to run and had to kneel down to squeeze the blood out of my leg muscles and get some relief. I looked back and saw the chasing group bearing down upon me. I’d only had 15 seconds of relief but it would have to do. I sprang to my feet and ran to CP14 above the old quarry workings at Bole Hill (26mi.), where I got caught.
Descending from CP14 to Bole Hill quarry.
Trees and grass have colonised the quarry now but man’s shaping of the landscape is still very obvious, with a terrace to run along and a steep ramp to descend (another escalator). We descended to and followed the River Derwent upstream (so that’s why I couldn’t run it all) to CP15 at Leadmill Bridge (27.9mi.). I killed two birds with one stone here by kneeling in front of the water container to refill my bottles while recovering the leg muscles. Who says men can’t multi-task?
CP15 - Leadmill Bridge.
The sun was beating down as I set off on the final 5.5 miles. I had another brief new lease of life and was able to run most of the way to CP16 at Stoke Ford (29.8mi.). The only time I wasn’t running was on a brief uphill section when I was passed by walkers going in the opposite direction. One of them said: “Come on, you should be running. The others in front are running.” She failed to recognise the fact that she was passing me on an uphill but she had passed the others on a downhill. I would be running within 30 seconds when I reached the downhill. She didn't understand. I am an ultra runner and ultra runners don’t always run, especially when they are clapped-out and it's uphill.
With 3.5 miles to go I climbed the long path to Abney. The trees provided welcome cool shade. I had to walk too much and thought I must get caught again soon. Where was Mick Cooper? He’s usually overtaken me long before this stage on an event. A left and right turn brought me onto the track up to the final high point. In the fields to my right I observed the creation of hay bales in one field from the cut and dried grass, while in the adjacent field I saw how they were wrapped tightly in black plastic sheeting (you know, that stuff that farmers abandon to blow around the countryside and get caught in fences).
I reached the top and turned left on the freshly graded track towards where the hang gliders fly. I tried to run but couldn’t. It was pained agony. I settled on an alternate jog/walk to the stile on the left. Over and across the fields to the top of the final descent with Bradwell and the cement works laid out before me. The sun was still shining, just like it always does, but this year there were no gliders. That’s a first. I missed their presence above me.
Final descent to Bradwell.
I began my descent rather painfully, still wondering where Mick was. I heard someone approaching from behind but I was too knackered to bother to turn round and look, then I heard: “By ‘eck, you took some catching.” I turned around and lo and behold, there was Mick.
I replied: “I wondered when you’d catch me. I knew you would overtake me before the finish. I’m suffering.”
“So am I”, he replied. “I won’t be doing any overtaking.”
We ran together as best our bodies allowed down to the main road for the final downhill drag to the finish. It never ceases to amaze me how uncomfortable running an easy downhill can be when you are not exactly brimming with energy. It was as much as I could do to keep running. I noticed Mick was humming to himself. Perhaps it was to take his mind off his personal torment. I should try it one day. (The UTMB at the end of this month might be a good place to start.) If he hadn’t been running beside me I would surely have had a few sneaky walking breaks.
As we entered the sports field my brother was there to welcome me in and take pictures. I dibbed my final dib and sank to the grass to sit cross-legged to commence my recovery, which comes pretty quickly as soon as I’ve stopped. I know Mick could have made up a minute or two down that finishing straight but he chose to stick with me instead. How uncompetitive is that. What a great bloke. Thanks Mick.
Recovery (courtesy Julian Ham).
My time of 7:46 was 17 minutes slower than last year. I'll take what I can get and be satisfied. No harm has been done after this toughest of doubles in the Runfurther series. Only two races remain now: High Peak 40 in September and Round Rotherham in October.
Of the other L100 runners, Kevin Perry finished 5th (again) in 5:47, Stuart Walker finished 6th only 23 seconds later and Greg Crowley finished 44th in 7:30 (virtually my time of last year as it happens). Danny Aldus finished 45th in 7:32. They are all faster machines than I. I was 57th, which out of 98 starters put me in my usual place firmly in the bottom half of the field.
Here are my pictures.