After a year off last year spectating due to pressure of other events, no clashes occurred this year so I was taking part once again. As it turned out it formed part of my post-lurgy rehabilitation to 'running' so I wasn't expecting a fast time (though I always live in hope). My older brother Julian travelled up from Buckinghamshire again to run it. I suggested we do our own thing rather than run together to avoid one (me) holding the other (him) back. We would push our own respective limits and see what transpired.
The day was not as hot as it can be for this event. Showers were forecast for later, but if we were lucky we might escape the worst of them. Race organiser Cliff Cartwright was his usual enthusiastic self as he sent us on our way at 10am. The route took us through well-supported checkpoints at Sparklow, Longnor (near), Revidge Wood, Wetton, Castern Hall and Mill Dale. Julian pulled away out of sight before Sparklow (CP1, 5.2 miles) to leave me in my own world of
The rain fell in fits and bursts for half an hour or so but thankfully it had stopped by the time Castern Hall (CP5, 19.6 miles) was reached. We were struck by how wet, muddy, overgrown and unrunnable some of the route was compared to previous years. The path that contoured the valley towards Castern was particularly treacherous, eroded and unrunnable this year.
The steep rocky limestone path down to Milldale was taken very slowly due to its polished ice-like quality when wet. The Dovedale Dipper warning sign at the top had forewarned us. Once on the lane came that long, slightly uphill drag I remember of old that should be run but is always so difficult to do at this stage. The shuffle that results would be of equivalent speed to an energetic walk. It brings us to the final checkpoint at Mill Dale (CP6, 22.4 miles).
A good refuel is needed here because there follows three miles (seemingly never ending) of slightly uphill 'running' up Wolfscote Dale. The temptation to walk is so strong but it must not be allowed. The gradient doesn't warrant it. "This is purgatory", I said to myself. I managed to overtake a couple of energetic walkers (who started an hour earlier) shortly before the right fork up the steep path. The steep, narrow, technical uphill released me from the obligation to run and I settled into my fastest uphill trudge. Shortly I heard a call from behind: "Walker coming through". The two walkers sped past as I stood aside to make way. Oh the ignominy.
As the gradient eased, the shuffle action was cranked up again, which developed into a jog as the gradient turned downhill back into Hartington and the village hall. My time of 5:34 was the second worst out of five completions. Julian finished 35 minutes ahead in 4:59. Well done Julian.
Now for some facts and figures.
Out of my five finishes, just one has been a sub 5 (4:54 in 2005). For Julian, 2 out of 2 have been sub 5s.
In 2010 when I last ran this event I managed 5:07 (second best time). That was the weekend after completing the Lakeland 100.
And there's more. My heart rate recordings are as follows:
This year (2nd slowest time): ave 168, max 180.
2010 (2nd fastest, after L100): ave 163, max 177.
2005 (PB year): ave 167, max 181.
I tried just as hard this year as I did in 2005 and was 40 minutes slower.
I was damned fit in 2010. (2010 also happened to be my all-time record year for the Bullock Smithy Hike, probably the only time I will ever get a sub-12 finish.)
I'm suddenly feeling old and past it, but it's nothing that a bit of running won't cure, eh? Perhaps I need to do more events.....
I took pictures.