With my last three blogs being about short distance orienteering events, this post I shall go back to why I started the blog in the first place. Mainly so I can remember what I did, what I felt like and how I did in long distance trail Ultras which is why I'm writing this retrospective look at my abysmal efforts in the dark & white events long tour of Bradwell.
Now this is classed as a short ultra in the runfurther series at 31 mile but with changes from last years course put in to place most people had plotted it at around 33-34miles which would make it a medium but whos counting. This being only the second running of the event changes were put in place after competitor feedback.
Dark and white are an events company specialising in orienteering/trail quest/mountain marathon style events and use sportident dibbers at checkpoints which I was glad about. Everyone who'd ordered one was issued with a 1:25000 map with the course marked on it as there was quite a bit of navigation involved, especially to find some of the control locations. After seeing a few familiar faces and quite a lot of Lakeland 50 and 100 tshirts floating about it was time to take the short walk from the Bradwell sports pavillion to the start.
The low key start up a road between some houses and Bradwell playing fields soon branches off towards the huge ugly cement works that dominate the area to the first dibber point on a metal gate only 10 minutes from the start. From here the track becomes rocky and begins to climb up Dirtlow rake to the second checkpoint on a another gate before turning back on yourself and heading down a familiar track. The descent through Cavedale to Castleton was very worn and rocky but fortunately was quite dry today, this is a route taken by many long distance challenges including the High peak 40 which goes up it and so i was told the Bullock Smithy Hike also.
At this point in the race I was taking it a bit faster than what I would call steady as i was trying to stick with Nick Ham partly because he knew the way and partly because he always seems to be a fair few minutes in front of me at all the ultras I've taken part in so far, so if I did stay in contact I could be sure of an improved time.
From Castleton the route moves up over Hollins cross and into the beatiful village of Edale and past the start of the Pennine way. The checkpoint here, or should I say flat bed truck with a couple of water butts on had just that, a few biscuits and surprisingly boxes of clif bars which were obviously donated by the team at runfurther. Thanks for those. I grabbed a peanut butter clif and began to munch it on the way. Feeling good at this point, the weather was quite mild and I begin to talk with Nick about all the classic overseas races that he's completed like the Western states and UTMB, he did make me feel better when he said the Western states was the easiest hundred hes done and races in this country tend to be , well more gnarly.
Up over Ringing Roger and to the druids stone for checkpoint 5 hanging off the stone itself the terrain gets a lot more fell running like with high knees over the heather for the steep descent down to Woodhouse farm.
I leave Nick here for a while as he takes some pictures but not for long as I end up following a 'trio?' of triathletes and run straight past a gate opening with about 10 others following me. Traipsing back up the farmers field Nick goes plodding past and I up the pace a bit to get some time back.
The section between Lose Hill and Ladybower reservoir seemed to be one long procession of adjoining farmers fields, stiles and gates with the odd family out walking or people relaxing reading their newspapers.
At this point I began to deterriorate.
The long slow gradual descent from Ladybower past checkpoint 9 in a layby where I take another clif bar and fill up my bottle starts to really get to me with an aching in the legs and a feeling of lethargy and mild dehydration, I realise that by just taking my OMM waist pack and the 500ml bottle that comes with it I was getting lazy and leaving the bottle in the pack. I should have taken the handheld bottle. The heat was not that high, probably around 20 degrees but it was very humid and the sweating didn't seem to cool me down. Checkpoint 10 at Bamford weir was a control flag on the bridge. I took the opportunity to get my head in the water to try and cool down a bit. I think it helped.
The steep ascent up Bamford clough seemed painfully slow as I chomped on a slice of banana bread I had in my bag. Tip: Don't wrap sandwiches or cake in foil if it's going to move about. I had more pressing things to think about than picking flakes of aluminium foil out of banana loaf.
The next section along Stanage edge was quite enjoyable again with lots of families out and climbers all along the rock faces. A place I'd never been before but am sure will return to. It was odd to see the runners in front all of a sudden go off track and into the bracken. Getting closer revealed that checkpoint 11 was hidden a few metres off the track, maybe to stop it getting stolen. Skipping along the gritstone to Burbage bridge seemed to take forever but was quite flat and I think my pace picked up a bit here. I'd even caught up with Nick Ham again but he was just leaving when I was getting to the checkpoint. I necked about 300ml of water here and then filled the bottle for the journey.
Burbage Bridge brought the second of only 2 real route decisions along the course. A straight direct route down into Burbage brook, apparently rocky and could be slippy if wet. The West route over Higger Tor. this one looked like too much climb to me, or the more popular choice of the longer but more gradual east side descent below Burbage rocks.
When going through bad patches it's always these long straight monotonous slight descents that reduce me to a walk when I should be getting into a good pace and clawing time back. Probably why I've never taken to road running.
The drudgery stops as the course passes through the Longshaw estate with picnickers by the river and up through the dense bracken, guided by strips of red tape hanging from trees, just when you think you may be off track you see another one. Luckily most of this section was taped as my gps screen had decided to turn black. The contrast had turned itself to maximum and I couldn't navigate the screen to turn it down. The map and compass worked anyway as my newly learnt orienteering skills were put to the test and I aimed off to find a fence and and handrailed it to tthe Lawrence field stile checkpoint.
Another long flat riverside jog to the roadside checkpoint at 15 and the one chap manning the control is on his mobile asking for more water to be delivered as everone is taking 2 or 3 cup fulls. I still have a great thirst on and neck another 300 ml and fill my empty bottle up again. The checkpoint did run dry later on which can't be nice for anyone especially when your longing for that drink and dehydrated.
A short run along the road (B6001) and theres a long ascent up to Abney Clough mostly on tarmac which i walked all the way and was surprised that nobody overtook me. At the top I was greeted with fabulous views over Bradwell and the Hope Valley with paragliders and hangliders out in force. The last steep rock descent towards Bradwell was a toughie on the knees but mellowed out as you hit Bradwell itself. I ran the last mile in about 8 m/mile pace which shows I still had some energy left in the tank. Back in 7:41:46 at the pavillion where coffee and biscuits were on offer as well as dorritos which went down well. Nick Ham had arrived only a few minutes ahead of me and was brandishing a large Western states pint mug of coffee.
I am pretty sure my lack of performance of the latter stages of this race were down to me not taking on enough salts early on. I had run out of Nuun tablets the week before and didn't bother to take any more so for my next race, High peak 40 18th September I won't make the same mistake. If I end up feeling the same then at least I can't blame that. It could be that I just don't train enough. I think its innevitable that you feel bad at some point during the race, its just how quickly you can get over it and carry on.
So all in all a thouroughly enjoyable route on a slightly too humid day (for me anyway) and another learning experience. I will definitely be back next year to improve on the time and would recommend any of the Dark & White events. I may even try a mini mountain marathon when I get the time.
Incidently this is the second event around this area where Karen McDonald (runfurther) has caught me up in the last couple of miles to go with what looked like no effort at all so for the High peak 40 this year do I stay at her pace or go off quicker again and hope to hold on. I wil decide on the day.
Nick Hams' pictures for the event can be found here. I tried to keep up with Nick most of the way around. That's why I'm on a lot of them