Tuesday, 8 April 2014

March Challenge.... It's a good job I did that extra long run!

Run plans update

Before I get down to detail I'll just update my concrete plans for 12-in-12 runs -

Jan - Hull to Bridlington - 27 miles - COMPLETED 25/01
Feb - Round Hull run - 43 miles - COMPLETED 23/02
Mar - Hardmoors 55 - 22/03 - 54 miles - update to follow.
Apr - The Woldsman - 12/04 - 50 miles
May - Centenary Way - probably 10/5 - 83 miles
Jun - 10 Peaks: The Lakes - 28/06 - 29 miles
Oct - The Yorkshire Marathon - 12/10 - 26.2 miles

I have plans for the other months, but not sure of the order I'll be tackling certain lone challenge runs or settled on which organised event in some months.

The picture above is from Helvellyn Lower man looking down towards Ullswater and capturing on the right some of vertigo-enducing "Swirral Edge" path over to the steep-sided Catstye Cam. A view I'll get part way around the '10 Peaks: The Lakes'

The Golden Fleece Circuit - 01/03/14

I was feeling quite good and felt I recovered quite quickly after the Round Hull - a nice steady pace helped I think. So I put a last minute entry in for this event, which I'd been reminded about and persuaded to run by somebody at my running club... who didn't end up doing it themselves... but no matter it's a run I'd be happy to do every year. So just 6 days after my 43 miler I toe'd the line for an additional long run I'd not planned on doing in March. It was also my first organised event run of the year and although an LDWA Challenge and not a race as such, I'd be competing with my previous time set for the route two years ago and my own target. A good weather forecast would help too - and I was in luck, no wind (great after last weekend) and sun breaking through the early mist late morning.

This being an LDWA challenge - and quite a popular one despite being only 3 years old - there was a mix of walkers and runners at the start. About a 50/50 split and I got there late so had to try and pass as many walkers as possible in the first few hundred yards on road before we were funneled into field edge paths. I caught up with a few club friends in the early section before I settled down into a steady pace that I hoped I could keep for the distance.

This event takes in an area of the East Yorkshire Wolds in a kind of loop from South Cave and is flat-to-undulating and often on road or good quality trail. So it would be a runnable, fast off-road event for me, which can be tougher than longer and slower ones if you pace it wrong! But I seemed to have plenty of go passing through Everthorpe village, along minor roads, into fields, skirting North cave and taking in the tree-lined driveway through Hotham Hall Park. I kept regularly topped up on food and drink, something about every half-hour and was aided in variety by the presence of Checkpoints (CP) on route, which are often a source of great home-baked treats in LDWA events!

Through Hotham and following a track north, west, north and onto field edge paths I was gradually catching and passing runners who'd started a bit quicker than me. The grayness of the mist gave the area a more isolated feel than up until now despite a few runners in front and behind me. Briefly into the woods and skipping along a sometimes boggy, but "not too bad today" track north before an eastward turn and a long track-cum-road to North Newbald.

At the CP leaving North Newbald the long and short (15 miles) routes separated and of the latest two runners I had nearly reeled in ahead one went each way. Still munching CP 'homemade' flapjack (yum) I made a quick march up the first real hill on route at 7.25m in. It was soon over and back down the other side of the hill, before a steady climb up through a Wolds dale to meet the Wolds Way route heading north near Sancton Wold. We were soon back off this Long distance footpath though and heading east along a puddle-strewn track towards Newbald lodge. The first promising signs of the sun's rays breaking through the mist could now be seen, but the air remained moist, still and cold so I was glad to be working quite hard.

The sun should always shine in Woo Dale
I exchanged places with a lady over the next field edge and then track section to Bishop Burton. I passed as she stopped to pick-up a glove, then was re-passed as I stopped to navigate. Following a CP, the mapped route then takes you on a non-marked route diagonally across a large field, which she took. I decided to take the more obvious and trodden field edge route around this field. Her way was marginally quicker, but she had to work harder and I passed as she stopped to eat.

I came into Bishop Burton and then it was an undulating mile-and-a-bit section south on road. I was alone again, but could make out some runners over a half mile ahead who I didn't think I'd pass any time soon. This felt like the point where I'd settled into my place in the field. The route then hopped over a field to Walkington and another CP and chance to munch. I could feel leg stiffening now, but not to the extent that I was slowing down. Undulating tracks now took the route passed Risby Park to edge Skidby and onto the long stretch along Eppleworth rd. This can seem quite hard when your tiring, but I'd been down this road/track in the other direction just last week towards the end of Round Hull, so today it didn't seem too prolonged by comparison.

Leaving the track I had to walk up the bank of the small hill as my tired legs struggled in the mud. The group of two ahead were at this point only a few hundred yards ahead and seemingly moving well, so if I could reel them in and not lose distance I could be positive I was still running strongly still. 

Across Riplingham rd and I grabbed a few sweets at the last manned CP with about 5 miles to go. Two years ago I'd been happy to run this route strongly in 4 hours 22 minutes, I now knew I'd beat that this year and aspiration-ally looked to break 4 hours. But I was already over 3 hours and with the hardest section of the route still to come I knew there'd be some slowing.

Mount Airey climb from Woo Dale
Turning west at 'Muddy Cross roads' I was now on familiar ground following the Wolds Way as it rose steadily to the top of Brantingham Wold and a steep descent down Spout Hill. I tried to push hard on this compacted trail and a road section and again as the path leveled out. On the tarmacked road section down the hill I pressed hard, but cautiously on tired legs. Then on the trail descent to the Brantingham dale road I pushed as hard as I dare without losing balance on the mud (with a barbed wire fence close to my left which the path cambered towards).

Back on road I had nearly caught two lads in front at the gate to climb the first of the two hills in the final 2.5m. I ran and then walked hard to go over the top into picturesque Woo Dale and marched hard up the larger second climb to top Mt Airey. I caught and strongly passed the two guys on the way up here as I was able to summon a run towards the top of the hill and knowing a downhill and a final fling on tarmac was to come. There's a great field path downhill from half-way up the drive to Mt Airey farm, but if anything it was too steep and slippy for me to take advantage on tired legs. 

I hit the road into south cave with just less than a mile to go - less than five minutes to four hours, so not possible to get inside, but I'd be close! No looking back just push and push on the tarmac to the finish nearer the other end of south cave. The sun was now out and the warmth of midday greeted us towards into the village. I tried to run down the next two guys in front, but they were strong and held distance, obviously experienced and pacing as well as I felt I had. I stepped into the hall stopping my watch on 4:01:53 for 27.65m, the fastest longer than marathon trail run I've ever done.

After a brief recovery sit down (who needs an ice bath?), and a bit of stew kindly provided by the organisers to all competitors, I had a quick change and drove back into South Cave to meet my dad, Clare and Isaac in the Fox and Coney pub. The sun shone down as I enjoyed a pint sat out front - a great way to top off a run :)

The Hardmoors 55 (what goes up...)

3 weeks after the Golden Fleece Circuit, less than 4 after Round Hull and I was at the start of the Hardmoors 55, with three more weeks running, not too little, not too much I had every reason to believe I could easily run the strongest Hardmoors 55 I'd ever run. This event was a step up on the runs I'd done so far this year, not just in distance - 54 miles - but also in terrain. With high, weather-exposed tracks in the highest areas  of the North York Moors moors a common feature along this route with 9000ft of ascent and descent along the way to boot.

I had history in this event too, I've run every staging since the first in 2010, seeing weather varying from 12 hours of freezing rain and wind, to sunny and calm and then snow drifts and really-freezing winds just last year. The weather this year just looked to be cold and with some rain, but I had every reason to believe I could beat my personal best on the route this year.... and beat it well.

But, it didn't quite work out that way. 

I felt somewhat less than perfect the afternoon of the day before as I got ready to go. I got a coffee for the 80min drive to Helmsley, which picked up my energy a bit. Once there I had a nice evening, a pint in a local pub with a few other runners and cooked a pizza back at the YHA I was staying in.

I struggled to get off to sleep and woke hours before the event and couldn't quite get back off. I had a dull headache, but not the type that a paracetamol helps with and felt hot. In the morning I got on with things in my pre-event ritual from 4.30am, dressed, final bag checks, two bowls of porridge and some fruit and then head for the bus to the start, which was picking up nearby.

On the bus I sat and chatted with my good friend Mark Dalton, about the event and what we'd been up to in the last few weeks since we ran round Hull together. It was a lovely start to the day as the bus crossed the sunny moors. At the start I got ready, got kit-checked, handed in drop bags and queued for the loo. After a long queue for the loo twice and not been able to go it seemed I was destined to start the run uncomfortable.

Off we went, 200 or so runners of various shape and size. With a time limit of 15 hours this event doesn't have walkers. The way training had been going I'd hoped for closer to 10 hours this year, which would beat a PB of just under 11 hours set the previous year on a slightly shortened, but snow covered course on an extremely cold North York Moors day.

But I just couldn't get comfortable, down the old train track path I passed a few people and I tried to run or fast walk the uphill towards Guisborough woods. Undulating through the woods I had a chat with a guy doing this run as warm-up for the Thames Towpath race (100 miles) in early May. This distracted me for a awhile, from feeling I was working too hard for the pace I should be able to run at this stage in this event. For the first hard climb, up Roseberry topping I felt flat. This is to an out-and-back CP on the top so I pushed downhill and then laboured onward to the next climb to the hill-top Captain Cooks monument. Most people around me were walking up here, but I felt I should have more zip and I couldn't get going on the downhill. My legs now feeling tired and lacking energy and when I tried to run I felt dizzy. At the bottom of the hill I could only run-walk on the flat road into the village of Kildale, I'd barely done 11 miles!

It was all over here, I tried to start up again running with Mark who'd caught up with me on the way to Kildale. But soon turned back again feeling dizzy and achey. I could have gone on further, but the Kildale indoor CP marks the last place for 20 miles where I could retire if needed and easily get back to Helmsley. As the next 20 miles were on high moorland, weather exposed and the most difficult hills of the route. CP only occured in the next section where the route crossed a moorland road.

Andy and Sarah of the organising team gave me a lift on to Osmotherley where the 31m indoor CP was being set up. I fell asleep in a chair once there. Waking up in time to see Jon, Shirley, Andy, Sarah and others in the RO team greet in the first few runners (exciting in a running geek way as these are pretty damn good, if unheard of, runners due to the low-key nature of trail running). From here I got a lift back to Helmsley with Jon and Shirley as they went ahead to open and setup the finish in Helmsley town hall. It was quite sad to arrive here and not see runners resting, rehydrating, eating and chilling after having finished this tough event. But a nice incite into the organisation side on the day, which I enjoyed and I was feeling a bit better so helped lift some supplies of food an drink in and put out chairs and tables.

That pretty much ends my up-and-down story of March, I managed a longer than marathon run as per my challenge, just not the one I thought it would be. Next up is the rather tough Woldsman 50, which is less than a week away as I write this. I'm hopefully fit and raring to go for this one, and the Hardmoors 55 this year was a one-off!

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