Approaching the High Peak Trail.
This is one event I have never plotted on Tracklogs so I don’t know the true distance. However, upon finishing, the universal consensus among those with their newfangled Star Trek satellite communicators was that it was 26 miles, give or take a few steps. Not being one to exaggerate (much), I make that a marathon distance technical trail & cross-country run through six of Derbyshire’s beautiful dales. It’s fast yet testing. I keep coming back for the challenge. This was my 10th completion since 1999. It was marvellous once again to return to friends of old for a low-key LDWA walk (or run).
I had just parked in the farmer’s field ‘car park’ when Dawn ‘adventure girl’ Westrum pulled up alongside. What a pleasant surprise. We were both beginning a weekend double whammy; she would be doing a long mountain bike ride on Sunday and I would be forcing my tired legs around the Roaches Fell Race. As we left the parking field the walkers had just been sent on their way, chased along the lane by a bus. Some were normally runners but were taking it slow and easy as they nursed themselves back from injury.
Biggin Village Hall was nice and warm as we registered and waited for our send-off at 9am, by which time the fog-cum-low cloud had lifted a little. The informal “Go” was uttered and we jogged our way up the lane. I felt most disconcerted because I found myself in the lead, and no-one was overtaking. This abnormal state of affairs continued into the first dale (Biggin Dale) until one, perhaps two, trotted past on that first technical descent to put this pretender back in his rightful place. I enjoyed hopping over the slimy wet limestone at a pace that was slow and controlled enough to allow me to place each foot safely without slipping. By the right turn and easy run up through Wolfscote Dale, I was already feeling the exertion. I had to ease back a touch, at which point Geoff ‘speed goat’ Holburt sprinted past, never to be seen again until the finish.
The sun was warming and the air was calm. I couldn’t believe how warm it was for mid November. Scott Sadler had tagged along with me for route-finding and conversation as we turned right into the third dale (Beresford Dale). Roger Taylor did the same on and off, between stopping back for chats before catching us up again. We would get to finish the event as a threesome. I appreciated the rare opportunity to run a whole event with someone. Don’t get me wrong though. I hadn’t miraculously speeded up to their level. They had slowed down to mine. They were having a relaxed, non-competitive ‘recovery jog’ day with no race pressure. I on the other hand …. well, I’m sure you can guess.
I have “P” permanently etched on my left eyeball and “B” etched on the right. PBs have suddenly become like hen’s teeth this year. From 18 in 2009 and 6 in 2010 (my first ‘proper’ injury year), I only have 2 of the blighters so far this year, and one of those was for a cycle ride, which hardly counts since it involved sitting down. ;-) It has been a barren year like no other on the PB front. For the first time I have more PWs than PBs. More than ever before this had to be the usual eyeballs-out race, but only with myself. To race with anyone else would be quite futile and would only end in tears of disappointment, unbridled gene envy and spitting of dummy out of pram (would I ever!). [Dawn, just in case you were wondering, for “dummy” read “pacifier”, and “pram” is an abbreviation of “perambulator”. It is an altogether more substantial affair than your typical pushchair, sorry, ‘stroller’. ;-)]
CP1 at Hartington.
The scissor-wielding marshal was waiting for us at Checkpoint 1, Hartington, to clip our tallies. Since I was well supplied with my own food and drink I made an immediate getaway to get a few seconds’ head start on Scott and Roger. A minor hiccup in Hartington village (my brain was dulled from the extreme physical effort) soon had us climbing the lane towards the stile on the left that would launch us across more fields. We climbed to the wall corner before descending fell-run style to the valley bottom and right turn to Parsley Hay. Through the farm with ever-present barking dog and up onto the High Peak Trail we did climb. A left turn delivered us onto the barely perceptible downhill ‘easy’ run, during which I caught up with Vaughan and Anne. They would normally be running but Vaughan was recovering from injury and highly frustrated to be seeing us run past. You'll be back before you know it, Vaughan. The disused railway bed eventually brought us to the right turn and the relief of the next climb up more fields to the Bull I’ Th’ Thorn Hotel on the main road. Scott was hoping to meet his parents here but we were too early for them. Had I been too fast? Probably, because my legs were getting heavy already. As I shuffled on down the track opposite, Scott texted his parents. He soon caught me up again. By the time we arrived at Checkpoint 2, Monyash Village Hall, they were there to cheer him on. Excellent.
Once again no food or drink for me. My own supplies were doing me just fine. I set off down the road on the long stage to checkpoint 3 to let Scott catch up again, turning right down dale number 4, Lathkill Dale, which eventually brought us into No. 5 Bradford Dale (that almost flat running is so draining). Although the ground had been wet and muddy from recent rains, the rivers in the dales were either low or hidden in the limestone below ground, in stark contrast to last year when they were flooded. However I was amazed to see that the stream in Bradford Dale had also dried up. I have never seen this before, even in the height of summer in July when I do the White Peak Walk.
Dried up Bradford Dale in November!
As in most previous years I was forced to ‘regroup’ on the gentle ascent of Bradford Dale. By “regroup” I mean it was the first time when I was forced to a walk when I should have been running. I forced yet more fuel down my gullet in the regular weekend quest to coax some life back into the legs. The track curved right and climbed steeply towards Middleton. Marvellous – a real excuse this time to walk and recover. It’s what I crave and need on the events and it’s why I find flat ones so tough. A change is as good as a rest. You need hilly runs to get rests. At this point, Roger caught up again after his longest gassing absence so far. We took some catching that time, he said. Now if I hadn’t slowed down, how long would it have taken him then?
Some speedier runners were descending from Middleton as we climbed the out-and-back to Checkpoint 3 in the village hall. My only checkpoint food was taken here in the form of a handful of Satsuma segments. The climb had rejuvenated me a little and I was ready for the run back down the hill and right turn to continue our journey to the finish. According to Scott’s and Roger’s GPS, we had done 20 miles, so we had just 5 left and a little under an hour in which to do them to equal my PB of 4:23. The race was on as we three powered our way up and down the fields and lanes via dale number 6, Long Dale. “Powered” might not be entirely accurate. OK, it’s a lie. The reality is this: I struggled and failed to make two dead, heavy, leaden stumps do a half decent impersonation of a pair of runner’s legs, while Roger and Scott dutifully slowed and waited every so often for me to catch up. The time marched on ominously and I began to realise that, even at my pace, the distance must be more than 5 miles. PB time came and went as we were passing the Friden works. From then on it became a case of damage limitation to avoid being slower than in too many other years. Though Scott and Roger may find it difficult to believe, I never stopped pushing right to the end.
The final section was more like 6 miles and total GPS distance was 26 miles. Our time was 4:40. I have run four faster years – in 2004, 2005, 2006 and 2007 (PB year). Never mind. A PB is merely the cherry on the icing on the cake. I never much liked glacé cherries anyway. Most important are the personal challenge, camaraderie (thank you Scott and Roger for your company) and the wonderful countryside at our disposal in which to run. For legal access and scenery, there is nothing to compare in any other country. I’ve said it before and I shall say it again – we are truly blessed in this beautiful country.
Across the Tissington Trail to the finish.
Geoff romped home second in 4:03 or thereabouts (I think). The winning time was 4 hours (not that there is a winner in these events).
The post-event meal had three courses – soup and bread (best if you were salt deficient; even the butter seemed laden with the stuff), stew and veggies, and cold rice pudding and a selection of tinned fruit for dessert. Lashings of tea aided the rehydration. Staffordshire LDWA always does us proud, all for £7.
Roger, Dawn, Helen Skelton and I found ourselves sharing a table for post-event laughs, jokes and refuelling. Helen is this year’s female winner of the Runfurther series. She was another runner who had walked as she recovered from injury. As we dined, Helen brought up the subject of what speed would be deemed acceptable to fire off a snot rocket. Racing cyclists and runners do it with nary an eyelid batted. Being dressed for speed helps with the acceptance. Even shufflers and plodders may get away with it if they 'look the part' (take it from me). However, on this day, Helen was a walker. I never did gather whether she actually caused shocked revulsion or nearly did, but my guffaws must have caused a disturbance in that village hall. In the words of Dick Emery, “You are awful, but I like you”. :-)
The pictures I took are here.