Friday, 18 November 2011

Roaches Fell Race 15mi. + Runfurther prizegiving. 13/11/2011.

The back-to-back event weekend had to be done since the Runfurther prizegiving had reverted to its roots by following 'Roaches'. I enjoyed the opportunity to run it again, which I have done every other year since 2007.

The route is an out-and back from Meerbrook Village Hall across some private farmland to access the Roaches ridge along to the end before descending through the woods towards Gradbach. We ford the river (nice and low this year) to access more private farmland that takes us onto footpaths to Wilboarclough at the foot of Shutlingsloe. We then enjoy the climb all the way to the top, around the trig point and back the way we came. Although there is plenty of up and down along the way, it averages uphill out and downhill back, which usually results in negative splits even after tiring.

Return river crossing.

Although the weekend was mild and dry, the wind had risen and the hilltops were enshrouded in cloud. The Roaches and Shutlingsloe were not nice places to be hanging around, but the marshals had to do just that. Hats off to them. Despite the low river levels, the surface mud and some bogs were lively. Some runners went in deep, as evidenced by one who was sporting completely plastered legs at the finish. The farm close to the start and finish with its slurry tracks and hoof-hole mud-pit fields was as breathtaking as ever. Since it occurs after the second river crossing, we finish well and truly soiled. We make do with the streamlet close to the village hall for communal bathing facilities.

Post-race wash.

The out-and-back format allows me to see the real runners on their return leg. Winner Kim Collison hove into view first as I was crossing the fields just before Wildboarclough.

Kim Collison.

After the previous day's efforts my legs were feeling heavy, so I was surprised to get to the halfway point at the trig point in 1:39. It was the same as in 2009 when I hadn't run Six Dales Circuit the day before. This pleasant surprise was tempered by the fact that I did not recall my legs feeling this heavy in 2009. I tried my hardest on the return leg but I was not able even to maintain a run at all times when I should have done. Half a litre of Coke and a Nutrigrain bar limited the damage to a 1:40 return leg (my first ever slower second half). I may have finished in the bottom 22% but it wasn't all bad. I was still 2 minutes faster than in 2007 when I last ran it the day after Six Dales Circuit. We must be thankful for small mercies.

I hung around, chatted and drank tea afterwards to wait for the Runfurther presentation and cake scoffing. Karen McDonald and team have done another great job this year and the Runfurther sponsors have done us proud. There were some impressive athletic achievements from the biggest ever field of runners. Although several winners were present, it's a shame that more of them could not be there to receive their prizes.

I always know I can never win any running prizes with my lack of speed, which is why I felt especially lucky and privileged to have remained fit and healthy to complete the Grand Slam without any issues. This year went a lot more smoothly than my first grand slam in 2009, when the wheels were falling off at Pumlumon and they lost some spokes as well at the High Peak 40. It so nearly didn't happen then. Now I have two under my belt. Woo-hoo!

Comparing 2009 and 2011 I'd have to say that this Grand Slam has been the more challenging of the two, with tougher events and more of them falling on consecutive weekends. The first challenge, which I have to say daunted me, was in April to June, with Highland Fling 53 on 30/04, Marlborough Downs Challenge 33 on 14/05, Brecon 40 on 21/05, Housman 100 (my choice) on 28/05 and Northants Ultra 35 on 05/06. I find it difficult to believe now but I sailed through them unscathed, getting stronger as I progressed. Then I went away on international business travel and did nothing for a month. Come Osmotherley Phoenix, my fitness had escaped me and I bagged myself a PW.

[Incidentally, my PB for this event occurred after running Western States 100 on the previous weekend, and I PB'd on that too! There's no substitute for keeping it up (missus).]

The next challenge was running Long Tour of Bradwell 33 on the weekend after Lakeland 100. There were no issues there either. As far as my body is concerned the events are just my weekend job. It's all part of the routine that I've grown accustomed to. If I don't do them my ability to do them soon reduces within a week or two. The more I do the more I can do.

For my 2011 full set of Runfurther 'weekends at the office' I got a box of Clif Bars (always appreciated for ultra-running fuel), padded Injinji toe socks (always appreciated for comfy tootsies) and a personalised print listing this year's 12 races completed. The piece de resistance will earn me some respec wiv da yoof in the town centre and draw the attention of the CCTV cameras. The personalised Runfurther hoodie has all the races listed on the back. It will also keep me nice and warm after the winter events. It will surely come in
useful after Wensleydale Wedge this Sunday. Thank you Runfurther!

Here are the pictures.


  1. Well done Nick on your grand slam. What a shed load of work! But lots of fun.

    Just read your previous post about PBs - do you count new races as PBs? Just a thought as a way to get some in ... may be cheating though.

  2. Well done Nick! good season of running AND blogging!

    The personalised Runfurther Hoodie sounds terrific: And, will no doubt confirm Ya as a full bruvver in da Stockport massive innit!


  3. Mad, it would be cheating. A PB only counts where there is a previous completion with which to compare. No 'easy money' around here.

    Ta UC :)

    Mike, it's been all-consuming. I'll have to scale back next year and get my exercise doing DIY instead. I may be going quiet.

  4. Congratulations on the grand slam again Nick! Don't spend too much time hanging out outside of shopping centers upsetting grannies in your new hoodie... Hopefully see you at some races in the future!