Monthly Archives: March 2012

Edale Skyline 2012

Back for another crack at the classic Edale Skyline fell race after a less than satisfactory attempt last year (twisted ankle, limped round, slow time etc). This race is very popular and it filled up in about 4 days so I was lucky just to get on the start line. Pre-race most of the talk was about the weather, and in a good way! The forecast was for a warm, sunny, still day and that turned out to be exactly what we got.

It was a very relaxed start to the race with everyone milling around in the field underneath Ringing Roger enjoying the sunshine. After a few words from the Race Director we were off with the usual cavalry charge up the hill towards the zig zags. This lasted about 90 seconds by my watch until it was steep enough to justify walking, I’m not that fast going uphill so was middle of the 330 strong field at this point. It’s almost exactly a mile uphill before a scramble over the top of Ringing Roger leads to the edge of the Kinder plateau and it’s possible to actually start running.

This section along to Win Hill is good running and the views were spectacular. Over Win Hill summit before the steep descent into the Hope Valley and a drink station where I stopped briefly for a couple of cups of water. Along the road briefly before starting the long, hard slog up Lose Hill, a real killer but at the top a young lad told me I was in 65th position which was better than I’d thought. The line for the descent off Lose Hill had changed since last year sticking to the ridge-line taking quite a techy descent down to Back Tor, definitely a touch slower than the old route through the field. Mam Tor provides another tough climb which goes on a bit and is that tricky gradient where running is hard but it’s not _quite_ steep enough to warrant too much walking!

Mam Nick at getting on for 11.5 miles – over half way – provides the second and last drink station and is also where those in the know suggest that the race really starts! That’s because the terrain is much harder from this point. My feet had been hurting for a few miles so I stopped for a minute or so to tighten my laces but to be honest it made little difference so I just had to man up and live with a blistered left heel and sore balls of both feet. The going was pretty good over Brown Knoll, not as dry as last year but not too boggy, and I was making decent progress taking a few places. The line they had flagged off Brown Knoll was horrible and I turned my ankle a couple of times, luckily with no lasting consequences, and I was glad to reach the flagstones heading to Jacob’s Ladder.

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Photos from http://www.dpfr.org.uk/albums/633 and https://picasaweb.google.com/ShaunP050/EdaleSkyline2012

From here it’s only about 6 miles to go, but the 6 hardest miles of the race with a lot of rough ground and also a couple of “racing lines” to find to cut off loops in the normal path. For the first of these round the back of the Woolpacks I was lucky enough to catch up with a group of local Dark Peak runners who knew where they were going and I tagged along for the ride – result! So with 4 miles to go and heading for Grindslow Knoll all was going well when – BANG – coming down a moderate descent I must have tripped over a rock and before I knew what was happening I slammed into the rock-covered path taking most of the impact on my left elbow. The Steel City Strider I was following turned and asked if I was OK and I was already back up and running trying to assess the damage, which was a lot of blood from my elbow, a bit from my right hand, but otherwise I seemed to be OK. For the next few minutes I had blood running down my left arm and dripping off my fingers but it did eventually clot up which was a relief.

From the top of Grindslow Knoll the elite have the choice of the “down and up” straight across Grindsbrook Clough, but for the majority it’s the long (and it feels even longer than it is) run round, eventually Ringing Roger is clearly in your sights and then just a mile downhill remains back the way we’d started. Not a nice descent really, especially not when you’re still a bit stunned from a fall! But finally a lefthand turn takes you back into the field and a grassy run in to the finish line. I finished in 3hrs 23 for 39th place so I had paced it reasonably well and made up 25 places in the back half of the race, even with my little incident (which I don’t think made a great deal of difference to be honest).

After a few cups of water and some jelly babies it was down to the stream to wash off some blood and assess the damage, which included a rip to my bumbag in roughly the place where my car keys were, which luckily were still inside (now that would have been a bad way to end the race!). Back at the race HQ the St. John’s Ambulance guys did a great job at patching me up and making me look a bit more presentable! They did recommend getting the elbow looked at again though so as soon as I got home it was straight off to Altrincham Minor Injuries clinic to get it cleaned and dressed again, with another trip two days later and I’m back again tomorrow morning. I’ve also got a big patch of road (fell?) rash on the left side of my chest and my left arm isn’t working too well, but is improving slowly.

So two years, two accidents – I might give this race a miss next year!

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Haworth Hobble

First race of the year means first blog post of the year. 3 months since the last, and between times there has been one race, the Boxing Day 10k in Poole where I set a new PB but missed out on the sub-36. This year it’s back to the ultra distance running as my ankle which caused me a lot of trouble last year is now good enough (although nowhere near perfect) for off-road running again. Unfortunately I missed out in the draw for the 2012 UTMB so I now need to renew my qualification points as all those from 2010 have now expired.

So time to get some solid miles in the legs and the Haworth Hobble seemed like a good starting point, 32 miles over the Pennine Moors starting and finishing in Haworth (famous for the Bronte sisters) taking a triangular route via Todmorden and Hebden Bridge. I was in reasonable shape from a consistent block of running (baring a few calf niggles as usual) and had recced the middle 20 miles of the route two weeks before so knew what I was in for. The weather forecast was OK, although driving across the moors early on race day morning the cloud was down and it was raining. Fortunately the rain mostly stayed away during the race, but the cloud stayed put for the first half.

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The race starts at the bottom of the cobbled street through Haworth so immediately heads uphill before easing into a couple of miles on tarmac. I’d started too far back and worked my way up the field before deciding I was going too hard and easing off again. Just after Bronte Bridge I stopped to take off my gilet as despite a strong headwind and the cloud being down it was pretty warm. A steady climb up to the ruined farmhouse of Top Withins (supposed to be the inspiration for Wuthering Heghts) then a long descent off the moor on super-slippery flagstones down to reservoirs and some tarmac to Checkpoint 1 at Widdop Reservoir.

The next section to the Long Causeway follows the Pennine Bridleway so familiar to anyone who has done the relay (first bit of Leg 2, but the other way). Then along the road past the wind-farm which couldn’t be seen but made its presence known by the woop-woop-woop noise coming through the mist. A tedious down then up through a nasty boggy field to CP3 at 15 miles, almost halfway. I was running straight through the checkpoints as I was carrying all my food and drink and this allowed me to latch onto the back of a 20 strong “peloton” for the packhorse trail above Todmorden, descending steadily then a steep drop down into the Calder Valley. Across the river and canal then of course it’s straight back up the other side first to Mankinholes (via a second muddy field of despair) then on up to Stoodley Pike looming high above on the hillside. Down again into Callis Woods then a traverse round the hillside above Hebden Bridge, with a view of Heptonstall church across the valley. Probably a nice view were it not for knowing that to get there meant dropping 150m down into Hebden before then regaining all that height up the other side. The climb to Heptonstall is the most tedious section of the route, a steep set of steps followed by a tarmac climb, the only relief being provided by a chap manning his own aid station out of his front door giving out drinks and jelly babies (thanks!).

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Photo courtesy of runfurther

Down again to the next checkpoint then a long drag of a climb up though Crimsworth Dean where the miles (25 down now) really started to make themselves felt. I’m not that quick going uphill at the best of times – and this was not the best of times! So it was just a case of getting it done with a “run to that rock/tree then have a bit of a walk” strategy. Approaching the final checkpoint at 27 miles my 5 hour target looked touch and go, especially as straight after the CP there was a steep half mile tarmac climb. Fortunately the next section of steady climbing up to Top of Stairs was mostly runnable and going over the top Haworth could be seen, the finish in sight! The next descent was long but rocky and not that quick going before emerging onto the road with just 2 miles to go. A final climb up to Penistone Hill then all downhill to the finish. I caught up a pair ahead when they took a slight wrong turn and we were really pushing the pace down into Haworth. A bit of confusion as when we came out at the church they went left up the cobbled street to then drop down to the finish at the school, which in fairness is the logical route. Whereas I went right down the cobbled street to then have to come back up to the school, this is the described route but is clearly longer and I was probably the only person who went this way! Still, it only cost me a minute and no places and I hit the finish line at 4 hours 59.

Was shattered at the finish but chuffed to hit my target, and later I found out that I had finished in 17th place (well 19th really as there were two pairs ahead of me). So a good start to the year and apart from the usual calf troubles my legs have come round pretty quickly. Next up is the Edale Skyline fell race in a week and a half before a four week gap to the London Marathon and then a week after the 3 Peaks Fell Race at the end of April. Mid-May sees a trip to Wales for the Ultra Brecon 40, a 2-point qualifier for the UTMB. After that I’ll probably have to get some tri training in for Challenge Roth in July!