I was on for my 12th start and hopefully my 12th finish of the High Peak 40 since 1998. This event holds a special place in my heart because it is one of my locals and it was only my 7th event and 5th ultra run, or walk as I did in those days. This year it marked my 140th ultra but I have no idea how many events. It must be well into triple figures by now.
The HP40 for me has been an event of many ups and downs and wildly fluctuating times, yet it is one where I am proud to say I have never failed to complete what I started despite a couple of near-misses – in 2003 when I was as sick as a dog from radiotherapy and my time of 10:34 was only 11 minutes faster than when I first walked it in 1998, and in 2009 when my body was drained of energy by some bug that had already affected preceding events and it was only the thought of my first Runfurther Grand Slam that kept me going to a faster than expected 9:20 finish. I have only broken the 8-hour barrier three times – in 2005 (7:46), 2006 (7:38) and 2007 (7:45). In 2011 I was under no illusion that I would be beating 8 hours (though the hope is always there because I never fail to try my best and see what transpires). This year I would be delighted simply to finish; I can still hardly believe my good fortune that I was able to stand on the start line, only just feeling injury-free after hardly being able to walk three weeks earlier.
In 2011, for the first time in my memory the event filled and entries closed before the day. The power of the running forums is a strong one. There were many first-timers there so many trashings, hitting of walls and cases of DOMS would undoubtedly follow. I was a veteran and knew what to expect, but nevertheless a personal trashing and a minor case of DOMS is only a missed Jaffa Cake away, so be careful Nick! In some ways I have always found the HP40 to be tough and assumed it was just me. However, having read forum comments this year I realise others feel the same. It must be because it's so runnable, but still with plenty of ups and downs. It's so easy to overdo it and have nothing left by the time you reach the 'Yellow Brick Road' from High Low over the horizon towards Chelmorton (crossing the Bullock Smithy Hike route at the road summit, I might add).
The clockwise route from Buxton took us via checkpoints at Bonsal Incline, Taxal layby, Digleach Farm, Beet Farm, Rushup Edge, Castleton, Bushy Heath Farm, Tideswell Dale, Upper Dale (Monsal Trail), High Low and King Sterndale. The Monsal Trail is a busy place now that the tunnels have been opened and lit. It is great to see so many people walking and cycling, getting healthy exercise outdoors along this now uninterrupted ribbon of flat trail through such hilly terrain. The reopening of the tunnels is a master stroke by the 'powers that be'.
The weather was mediocre but it could have been worse. The longest of the showers hit me on the descent to Tideswell Dale, so at least I had the shelter of the dales and trees for the next few miles while it lasted. Most important was that it remained dry for the long exposed road section to King Sterndale, though the looming clouds ahead did threaten somewhat.
As usual I had a right good chat afterwards. Runfurther Karen was just back from a trekking holiday in the beautiful mountains of Slovenia. She would take charge of the Runfurther sponsors' flags, which I had erected before the race in the rain (and we'd kept them so dry through the rest of the year as well, with the exception of the Brecon Beacons 40). Speedy Roger was there, who apparently runs these events on his body's reserves, only allowing a donated sweet to pass his lips when he's on the verge of collapse with low blood sugar levels. Well perhaps that's a slight exaggeration but it's not far off. Roger, how do you run as fast as you do on so little sustenance? You must be gnawing on the door post in the week following an ultra.
In the days after the race I luxuriated in the post-race feeling of old – i.e. feeling used up but not injured. It is that healthy discomfort that you know will pass within two or three days and leave you stronger for the next weekend's event – and so-on. Back to normality. Grand slam number two lives again. Praise be.
According to Roger I'm made of rubber. Why? Because I "bounce back" (boom boom). Now that I'm miraculously recovered I also earned a new moniker from Steve (you know who you are). BritNick has become FitNick, apparently. Long may it last.
As I was 'giving my all' I didn't loiter much to take pictures. They are mostly at checkpoints when I had to slow down anyway. What I did take is here.
11 down, 1 to go.