Tuesday, 1 July 2014

May Challenge: The Centenary Way - 83 miles: part 1

My task today, follow these signs -
if they are there to be followed
The Yorkshire Wolds aren't exactly the Wild West or the Sahara desert, but covering them at night, on your own, as part of a non-stop attempt at the Centenary Way (CW) adds enough challenge to make it one of the toughest ventures I've taken on. Statistically its not a tough 83 miles, no mountains or huge climbs, no areas particularly exposed to harsh weather, but the distance is challenge in itself and can make even minor difficulties seem a lot more challenging as the miles clock-up.

Friday Evening - the off

Mood lighting above Filey at the start of my run
Clare had agreed to give me a lift up to Filey and see me off on Friday 9th May and we arrived just after 7pm on a sunny and moderately temperatured evening. Clare thinks I'm mad, but know's what this means to me and her support at the start really means a lot. As does being able to see my boy Isaac before I set off. After an afternoon off work to pack my gear and get ready and a large pizza lunch I'm in a quite relaxed mode, somewhere between too worked up/stressed and too laid back, which is ideal at the start of something like this. Stress can rob you of needed energy, being too worked up can cause you to set off too hard and being too laid back means your maybe not taking it seriously enough and may give up when the early signs of difficulty occur.

The first minor inconvenience is that I don't know exactly where this long distance footpath starts. I know it shares a start/end-point of Filey Brigg with the Wolds way and the Cleveland Way. But I expected a sign to say the route starts here as per the aforementioned two, more established, LDPs (Long Distance Paths). So after some wandering around the end of the Brigg fruitlessly I decide I'm at the grid ref of the start and that will do, so after a few final pictures I set off at 7:36pm. It's a sunny evening, a bit blowy on the clifftops above Filey, but a comfortable 14c.
What do you mean you've got no food?!

The first steps are quite literally steps after following the grass path south along the clifftop I dip in and out of a ravine and then drop down to Filey and jog along the prom. Down here its soon apparent that I'm dressed too warm at the moment. Away from the clifftop winds the windjacket comes off and I'm able to move on comfortably in Devold base layer, Ronhill DXB tracksters, sturdy Drymax socks and Inov8 trail shoes.

I'm quickly getting an idea I'm not going to be treated to the constant waymarking of the Cleveland and Wolds way's as I pass through Filey without any sign of a sign. Part way up Martins ravine the map and GPS trace I have on my garmin suggest a left turn, up the bank and I'm out of town. I follow the path, then road - stopping briefly to photograph some donkeys, who get grumpy when they realised I'm not going to feed them - and emerge onto the A1039 where I see my first Centenary Way (CW) sign. 

I follow the road south till the roundabout where I cross and take the path across fields to HunmanbyThere's a slight uphill into Hunmanby and I take a right turn at the pretty village centre. I then follow the road east for a short time before heading out onto a farm track and out onto the Wolds. Before Hunmanby Grange I take a right and dip into Stocking dale and then follow this north till turning into branching Camp Dale. 

After a climb to run along near the top of the dale I see a great red sky sunset, which I try to photograph. All of a sudden I'm conscious my back seems wet. I remove my back pack to check the bladder for leaks. Nothing apparent, or if there is its only a small leak, maybe I'm just sweating a lot. It's near dark as I turn west through dipping in and out of this dale and then following Raven Dale eastwards.

The Night

I'm now heading roughly eastward, dipping in and out of dales for a few miles before I take the descent to join the track past Staxton Wold RAF baseI'm reminded of the dangers of lone running at night as the drop to the track is steep and the track greasy. i build up speed and then kick a tree route and briefly look like falling over forward down the bank, but I correct in time for nothing worse than a slight tear to the arm of my windjacket from low hanging foliage.
The sun sets over Camp Dale

Passing the RAF base I feel almost like I'm in company for the first time in several hours, I've not seen a soul since Hunmanby. It's strikes me as funny how I crave company when on this singular endeavor, yet I'm usually more than happy enough in my own company for long periods when company can be found nearby. Heading away from the base I cross the B1249 and then undulate gradually down the northern embankment of the Wolds passing through Ganton - the first of many tiny villages I'll see on route tonight.

Leaving Ganton its flat track through Potter Brompton - with a name like that have I left the mortal plain and run into a childrens story? A little after this village I head back up the embankment and then undulate on a roughly eastward bearing through woods and fields and then some road near Sherburn. I get back atop the embankment soon after and continue east on often wet field-edge grassy tracks past a few isolated farms.

RAF Staxton Wold lighting the skies - One of my
few brushes with civilisation all evening
At this time I make my first slight navigational error as I hit a t-junction in a small wood and blindly take the left option. I soon realise I'm heading at 90-degrees from marked route, but I'm on a good track and the map says I can soon turn to parallel my true route again and rejoin soon after. I pass a campsite where there are still people up and about having a midnight chill-out by moody floor-level lighting on the site. This strikes me as appealing and reminds me of camping before and after runs in areas I down't know well, chilling with a beer and friends. 

But this isn't enough to distract me for long and I'm consulting map and GPS to find the tracks to rejoining the CW. I make good pace on a track likely better than the actual route and don't add much distance. Upon rejoining the planned route I leave the eastward bearing for about a mile to head south through Deep Dale plantation. A brief steep and carefully trod descent brings me out near Wintringham.

I'm feeling the miles a bit now, but still maintaining a good pace somewhere between 4.5-5mph through the night and nearly 24m done in a little under 5 hours. It's nice to pass Wintringham because I know from the travelling this ground on the Wolds way 3 years previously - which has been paralleling the CW route for nearly the last 20m now - that this is a move away from the northern embankment of the Wolds for awhile and a sign of progress.

I edge the village and its uphill through field, on track and then steeply through field again to climb to higher Wolds ground through a plantation to Settrington Beacon (199 metres / 653 foot). The up and down hills are set to become more difficult for the next few miles, but my early progress is good, backed up by on the hour watering and feeds on: sandwiches, chocolate, flapjack, energy bars, fruit, nuts/seeds (for more detail see my previous post, I carried on the day much of what I said I would on that post). I also alternated this feed with a few mouthfuls of Chia Charge drink on the half hour.

'Selfie'  while running at night
From Settrington beacon I hoped for a fast few downhill miles to Wharram le Street, but it wasn't quite that simple. A wide, sometimes wet track took me downhill via a plantation and then an s-bend through Wood House Farm. Then the rout took me down a steeper grassy bank where it was hard to discern a path, before a beck crossing and back up a similarly un-pathed bank. Back on a track there's a climb back up to 557 foot, before dropping again and joing the road through Wharram le Street. As I run along the B1248-side path a few cars past at ludicrously fast speed making me think perhaps my whole sensory process has slowed down after a few hours of nightime running and being up well after I should be sleeping. And also remind me I'm not alone.

I turn off down the station road and follow the road down into the cut of an old railway line. I follow this muddy/wet track close to Wharram Percy. But then unlike the Wolds way and the recent Woldman event the Centenary way takes me up the hill back to the car park for the heritage site and then down the road back up to over 670ft before a westward turn to rejoin those Wold routes and track Deep Dale from above - one of a few similarly named dales in the Wolds - keeping at roughly the same height along a grassy track.

I then diverge from the Wolds Way again to follow a wriggling track south towards Thixendale. About now the cool air moves in, the drizzle follows and the jacket comes back on. Robbed of many of the visual queues of daylight and without other distractions I was surprised how a suppressed instinct kicked in and I could feel in the air the imminent arrival of rain and imminent acceleration of its fall.

I'd slowed a bit as I got down to the village, at around 35m / 7hrs30 run / 3:30am I reminded myself I shouldn't be too concerned and that this was just a lull in spirits brought on by the cold, rain and a few miles of hillier going and wetter underfoot to slow me down. Tougher was to come up the hill before light though as I left Thixendale and the rain kicked in heavy for the first time on my run. Despite a slow section - as the Centenary Way again followed the Wolds Way - I had to stop and change from jacket to waterproof as quick as possible as the air and rain cooled me rapidly.

The hillier miles continued a little longer, off Cow Wold through Vessey Pasture dale, back to the west end of the Deep Dale I'd tracked an hour or so previously. Here I turned West then North and I left the Wolds Way for the rest of my run, which qualified to me as another section of progress, almost a metaphorical halfway point (if not quite the physical one just yet).

During my descent off the grassy hill from Birdsall Brow the rain started to ease and would soon stop. I had a bit of energy return as the new day dawned and was lookimng forward to some fast and flatter miles to take me to Malton where I could treat myself to a larger snack for breakfast.

But, I couldn't wish the run away yet as Malton was still a number of miles away. Before then I had a few miles of pasture fields and that meant cows! And at this time of year when they are protective of their young and also if their is a bit of rain they seem hell bent on making my life tricky...

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