After the tough and high mileage Rab training last weekend I didn't feel too guilty about not being able to train in the week due to looking after my son all week, after his mom looked after him the week previous. I packed my kit for Hills and Dales on Friday night. My girlfriend was entered into the event too, and I would run with her. It is the first LDWA that she has been able to attend due to various injuries etc, and the first time she has attempted to run that kind of distance (22 miles).
We drove past Leek, and into the Peak District, parking at High Ash Field study centre. I know the way well, as this is the 4th time I have entered the event. We narrowly missed the start, setting off from the back as the other runners disappeared into the distance. The first 2 miles of the event was to be quite frank, dreadful. The ground was awful. There had been a lot of rain in the week, but some of the ground was marshland anyway. It was deeply rutted in places, and very treacherous. One lady runner just in front of us turned her ankle so badly, that she and 3 others just stopped and returned to the start. They weren't very happy about the route choice over such bad ground. The route then went down a narrow enclosed footpath that was ankle and knee deep in sludge at times. It was impossible to run, and very frustrating. I had reccied most of the route, but not this first two miles, and it was very very slow going.
The weather was initially quite sunny with some nice views over the surrounding hills. These photo's were all taken on the reccie three weeks ago, when it was baking hot. The weather was nowhere near this good during the event itself.
We then joined the part of the route that I had reccied and was familiar with for the next 17 miles and so I could ignore the route description and run on confidentially. There are a lot of stiles to negotiate in this part of the world. Once every few hundred yards it seems. I assisted quite a few runners, and later walkers (they had an hour’s head start) with directions as we went. We passed through the first CP quite quickly and then descended over more marshy ground before gradually climbing up onto a road and then continuing up a farm track. Here is a shot looking back the way we came.
The second CP was in a village called Warslow, where we just stopped to drink a quick cup of juice, grab a couple of biscuits and then set off again. We ran down to Ecton, on another narrow and muddy trail. The trail had been much better when I reccied two weeks ago, but making our way down towards the road, so slow progress as the path was cut into the side of a hill. At the bottom there was 100m of flat ground, before a fairly stiff climb half way up Ecton Hill (pictured).
However we didn't go all the way up, the route contoured around and then heading down the other side. We were passing a lot of walkers at this stage (8 miles). There was another good climb the other side of Ecton, and then a gradual descent over good ground towards Hartington. We joined a busy main road for half a mile, and were pleased to get off it away from the speeding traffic and cross these fields for the final flat mile into Hartington itself.
Just before Hartington I had some baby food! Yes that's right. Yvette, a friend of my gf's, and also happens to be a very good ultra runner, recommended it to us. You can buy sachets of baby food with a screw on top, purees and rice pudding (my favourite). This is a good find, and I'll be using these in future!
I can pass for 7 months old, right?
In Hartington was CP4, where we took on some more juice and I had a couple of squares of cake of some description. Again we were off quickly, only a couple of minutes at each CP all day. There was a mile long climb on the narrow road up and out of Hartington, which we walked. We then crossed a stile and ran on again, this part of the route is the same as on the LDWA Dovedale Dipper event. There is steep little hill, that loses about 30-40m in height. I had been building it up to my gf, as she is not very good at running down hills. I demonstrated by running pretty much flat out to the bottom. She ran down a little faster than she normally manages, but still too slow. It's all in the mind I've told her. Maybe a blindfold will work?
The route then turns sharp right and contours a hill before climbing down to a farm, with a dog that always goes berserk when anyone comes past. If I was the farmer it would drive me insane. I think I'd buy a cat. We then climbed up and joined a cycle trail for the next 4.5 miles. You can tell on the speed profile because all of a sudden there are no more stiles and hills etc, and we could run at a nice steady pace! Half way along it was CP4, where again we had some juice and snacks to supplement what we carried ourselves to eat and drink. We had passed all of the walkers at this stage (15 miles).
The cycle path climbed gradually for the final 2 miles, and then ends at gate. The route turns sharp left up a wide gravel path, and up more of an incline. We ran all the way up except the last 100yards, where we walked and took on more food and drink as the route then turned sharp right over a field. We walked the first field as we ate, since it was quite hard going to run through the long grass anyway. We then ran on crossing a few more fields and then onto a road where we turned right and headed down into Earl Sterndale and the final CP, 5. We had caught up and passed a good few runners by now, and overtook a few more in the final leg. There was a climb up the next few fields and then a sharp descent.
I had not reccied the route from here on, so we were slowed up a little as I had to navigate from the route description. We climbed up and over the small hill and then a steady run into the small village of Hollinsclough. After Hollinsclough there was a sharp climb up a boulder strewn path. This was pretty horrible and not a good route choice in my opinion. I bet plenty of people were swearing through their teeth when they got to this section, which though only half a mile long, felt a lot longer! I wish I'd taken a photo of it.
There was then a descent over some really poor ground again; very boggy and rutted from cattle. We didn't enjoy the last section at all. You can see from the speed profile our speed just drops in the last couple of miles, and not through choice. As we got closer to the start, the ground just got progressively worse and slowed us up, but we just managed to hang onto an overall 4mph average speed for a finish in 5hrs 25 mins, 22 miles and 3000ft of ascent/descent. My girlfriend did well. It was her first event, and it wasn't a bad time. I need to whip her into LDWA-event-specific shape, and get her to run faster down hills and over rough terrain, and get her negotiating stiles a little faster, but overall she did well and it was a very respectable time.
At the finish there was a hot meal provided, and rice pudding afterwards. There was hot tea, coffee and cakes too. There was a tombola too. The whole event is a fundraiser for the Chernobyl Children’s Charity. I bought £1 of tickets and had won a bottle of Smirnoff Vodka. However, I don't drink! I donated it back to them for someone else to win. I'm not sure if some on-high power is trying to coax me back into alcohol because yesterday I was a my Tesco Supermarket checkout. The till printed out my grocery receipt, and one of the discount clubcard coupons, usually targeted at your typical purchase history. Here it is.
For those not in the UK, they are all cans of beer, or cider. Well done Tesco, good to see your loyalty card purchase history system is working well.
It is back to normal training this week. The Rab Mountain Marathon is just 2 weeks away now. Have a good week.