Having completed last year I swore I would never do this event again as the only part that stuck in my mind was the never ending road section From High low down Flagg lane just after checkpoint 10 about 35 mile in. However as all ultra runners will know the pain soon gets forgotten and you're planning to improve your time next year. This is what i was planning on for this years race but did not want to push too hard as its the Long Mynd hike in 2 weeks time so just a slight improvement would do. I had printed off a map with the route and all checkpoints with my previous years time on each one so I could gauge my progress.
At the start line there were some quick runners lining up. Stuart Mills, winner of this years lakeland 100 had decided to have a go after being pipped to the post of this years runfurther series. Duncan Harris, winner of this years Fellsman was there, Brian Cole, last years winner and Ian Bishop who's a man to look out for in 2011.
As event organisation goes this is right up there with the best of them and the fact that the whole route is signed at every junction cuts down on the worry of navigational errors or so you would think, I got lost last year at the bottom of Monsall Dale with a handful of others but luckily was carrying a map anyway and soon sorted it out.
The hooter was sounded at 8:00am sharp and I'd decided to go up to the front to see how fast the real runners set off and yes it was quick. After running alongside the A53 the course soon gets off road and up a farm track. Out on the the dirt track moving towards Goyt valley you can see the leaders pulling away at a relentless rate as the track turns back slightly on itself.
Checkpoint 1 is there in 3.9 miles. The steep tarmac road down to Bunsal Cob is just a taster of more to come and I begin to remember why I took a dislike to this event.
One of the positives of this ultra running lark is the people you meet on the way. Because of the low intensity of the running it is easy to start conversations and when late on in the race it raises moral when feeling low or having a bad patch. Although still early on I started talking to Jan between checkpoints 1 and 2. While no stranger to fell running having completed Wasdale and Tanky's Trog this was his first ultra and I had no doubt he was looking a lot fitter than I was feeling and he finished in 12th place over an hour in front of me. I only discovered after logging on to the FRA forums that it was jodg. I still can't get used to this chatting on forums with people then going to a race and knowing they are there but not knowing who they are.
Jan promptly pulled away after CP2 Taxal Layby and up to Eccles pike, then down more tarmac to CP3 with a fine spread of flapjack and cake.
I had decided to be more self sufficient for this race and took 2 hobnob flapjacks, a few jelly babies and my favourite Ham, Laughing cow and brown sauce sandwiches. At the Bradwell ultra I was craving salty snacks and was sick of sweet stuff. I had also opted for a handheld water bottle full of SIS go to start with and had 5 nuun tablets through the race. The combination seemed to work well for me as I was able to take a drink, 3 gulps every 10 minutes and not have to stop at checkpoints unless topping up water. Cramp didn't set in and no cravings.
|Mam Tor straight ahead|
From CP7at the top of Tideswell Moor a stretch of road lays ahead which looks like the dreaded Flagg Lane but I realise I can't be there yet and i'd forgotten about this long tedious descent into Tideswell itself. All on tarmac it goes on and on right into Tideswell town which compared to last year seemed deserted, still and very quiet. Then out of Tideswell its downhill again until you hop off the road into checkpoint 8 at Tideswell Dale. Between 7 and 8 is 3.3 miles all downhill and on road. Sounds easy reading it now but after24.5 miles it's a quad masher and something I'm not used to.
The weather throughout the whole day was perfect for running with a slight coolness in the air which when walking seeemed a little too cool and made you start running again. Taking Nick Ham's advice I waited until at least 30 miles before I cracked open the 500ml of flat coke I had in the OMM waist pack and had it with a sandwich as I walked up Deep dale after working my way through a herd of cows.
before the High Low checkpoint. In doing this I was able to walk straight past the checkpoint, after being clipped of course and straight on to the road section from hell!
If you look just to the right of the runners head the longish group of trees on the horizon is where the road ends. When you get there it's probably the same again or it certainly feels like it.
For mere mortals like me its a good hour from here until you reach Deep dale which for me was a refreshing change with a steep rocky descent and the last steep climb of the day up to CP11.
With only 2.8 miles to go to the finish I get overtaken again by at least another 7 runners as they try to beat the 8 hour mark. At some point I'd got it into my head that my time for last year was 7:41 but looking at the map with my split times on has it at 8:13. I'd got my Long tour of Bradwell time mixed up with this one so no way was I going to beat 8 hours but could still do a PB.
A short run under the viaduct and your back into civilistaion and have to play with the traffic to cross the busy main road and through some back alleys to the finish.
A couple of minutes over 8 hours and I'm happy with the PB. Further analysis proves I didn't really push it as my average heart rate was only 136 compared to 145 for last time. All in all my fueling was right but I don't think I'm getting enough sleep in the days upto the event as lethargy was a problem exacerbated by more stress at work and early starts. With the 30-40 runners that overtook me from about mile 20 onwards I was always waiting to see when Nick would go past. Surprisingly it never happened and he came in just 1 minute after me. Don't know what happened there so I'll eagerly await his blog post.
Duncan Harris wins in style with Brian Cole, Stuart Mills and Ian bishop behind. Full results here. Be sure to check out Stuart's blog in my reading list for more on winning times etc.
So that's another year doing a race I swore I'd never do again, on my birthday as well. So would I do it again. Probably, I've got to beat 8 hours now but need to do a bit more downhill pounding road runs for practise