I was keen to test myself on it, and see if I could improve on my time from last year. Post- Titterstone Clee I
|Group recce, post titterstone clee|
We arrived early, and could see that the day was going to be a fine one despite the cloud in the valley. Before we started, there would be a fine inversion for those who were on the top of the Mynd. However, it was pretty damn cold down in the valley where we were registering. As more people came in to register, Steve and I had a wander up the first hill, and then a look over the final descent, which was as steep as I remembered it from last year, but underfoot was very hard - frozen, and with very little give at all. It looked like it might well be a fast finish.
As the time came, more of us flocked to the parts of the starting valley which were bathed in sunshine - until we were called over to the starting pen. In the intervening hour between registering and starting I had managed to lose my elastic band with my number on it which needed to be deposited at CP2, so I was rebuffed from the starting pen, and told to find it, or else I would not be starting. No time to argue, I ran up to the registration, asked for another band, which was hastily penned by a volunteer, and then pelted back down to the start pen again.
Thankfully, the organiser was still waffling on about the pitfalls of running without appropriate gear, and where we needed to deposit the wrist band etc, and everyone else was standing around getting cold. At least I had managed to get in a final bit of warm up, even if it was a bit fast for my liking.
Soon enough (but not soon enough to stop us from being freezing), we were allowed to start, and off we went, haring off up the track, which had been pretty slippy earlier on in the morning. I had elected to wear Mudclaws - which have had a fair amount of wear, so not the greatest of grip, and didn't bother with spikes. Considering the race started at 1145, by the time we got to the top of the hill, the really cold ice would at least have been melted a little by the sun.
Well, and I lent Lynne my spikes for her boots as she was walking up some of the more shaded areas of the mynd, and was much more likely to encounter solid ice.
Up onto the first hill, and the guys at the front were still running. I thought about it for a moment, and ran as much as I could before thinking about just how long the race was going to be, and decided not to completely waste myself in the first 5 minutes, and took to a fast walk. There was already a selection being made, and I was not in the front group, but I was in the midst of the second group on the field, which was encouraging.
The plunge down into Jonathans hollow was quite an interesting experience - last year it was nice and soft and studs sank into the earth and turf as we descended. This year it was rock hard, and if you weren't careful, grip was the first thing to go, so I opted for the slightly rougher line through the dead bracken, which was slower on paper, but faster in practice - overtaking a fair few people.
On the next drag up, I continued to pass some of those that had shot off a bit too fast and was pretty happy with where I was in the race.
The first proper slog of the day followed, and I found myself with Chris Atherton, a few Mercia lads, and Tom Bush, previously Altringham, and now moonlighting at Pennine, so I felt that I was in pretty good company.
Across and onto the top, the snow made itself known, and we ran though ankle deep slush for a while, picking our way through the longer grass to make our way to the bridle way, which was basically an ice rink. Tom Bush caught up and took the opportunity to make haste across the flat plateau, despite the underfoot slippiness.
Through the checkpoint and onward, where I momentarily forgot which was the next checkpoint, and ended up going a bit too far left down the next descent. Thankfully there were a decent bunch of runners catching
|Icey on the tops|
A gel was opened and consumed, and it took a good while before I could work out what flavour it was - for some reason my head was saying Pink Grapefruit (I knew I had one of them), but my mouth wasn't reconciling the taste... Must have been going hard if I couldn't remember what apple flavour tasted like.
Across and down... I realise here that I have missed out another down, where Julien, Andy and Andrea were cheering us on, sitting in a suntrap, enjoying their day on the Mynd, great to see them out and about.
I have pretty much no idea how I got to checkpoint 4, but clearly recollect going down the path from 5 to the first of the big hills. There was a mountain biker off his bike clutching his leg part way down the descent, but he had a good gaggle of mates with him that looked like they were sorting him out - nevertheless, I mentioned it to the marshals at the bottom of the hill. The first of the big hills on the return leg.
I had noticed on the way out that a few of the guys I was running alongside were really going hard at it, while I seemed to be not breathing too hard... well, certainly not as hard as them... They were certainly running faster than me, but I had held some back. This next section was the reason.
|Jules, Andrea and Andy's suntrap|
Decisions.... go right.
The first of the hard ascents, no running here, hands on knees and pound out the rhythm, onward and
upward. Tom had followed me, and all the other Mercia runners had gone left. Slightly concerning that the locals had gone the other way, but no time to think too much on it. I tried to catch the guys in front, but despite them seeming to be just out of reach, they crested the top of the hill a minute before me, and had disappeared off the convex hill leaving me a little concerned that I had no idea where the good line was....
I could see runners in the distance going up the next hill, so knew where I needed to be. The group I was following up the hill was far off to my right and a way away down the hill, with a decent yomp across the bottom of the hill before the next ascent... well, I wasn't going to follow them - not with a fabulously rough, brackeny descent that led direct down the hill. Decision made.
I have no idea if I made or lost time with my most enjoyable direct descent... it certainly wasn't as smooth as the line far off to the left, and I have no idea where the Mercia guys got to, but I didn't see any of them for a while. Bracken bashing and slipsliding down the hill, no-one to follow, just trying to make sure that my legs were still going to work for the next ascent.
I leapt across the river at the bottom, passing 2 other runners, and started up the second of the hills. Again, chasing those guys that were just in front of me, yet out of reach.
Until 1 of them slowed, and then another... 2 more overtakes for me, on an uphill section - not something that happens too often, and I was still gaining on them, but then they hit the top of the hill before I had a chance to get on their tails... but this was not a crest with a direct descent, but a traverse around a valley... but a traverse that was this year, deep in snow. A slow, and leg sapping traversing ascent.
I could see a lovely little descent line, with a sharp ascent on the other side, out of the snow, and with my legs still feeling like they had some life in them, I thought I'd try that out. It probably wouldn't be faster when both lines were dry, but with snow around the top... it might work.
Plunge down, and then the grind up... footsteps behind me... some idiot is following me. No idea who, I'm certainly not going to look behind me.
The guys going across the top, or at least the faster ones, were crossing my path quite a way before I reached the top, but another 2 at least had fallen behind, and there was another one just in front of me as I popped out onto the path.
We reached the checkpoint together and punched our numbers on the control, but my legs seemed fresher and I launched down the hill in front of him, not looking back, and never saw him again.
At the bottom of the hill I downed another gel, ready for Yearlet, and the amazingly horrendous climb it was about to present, and made my way to the bottom of the tributary that lead up to the steeps.
Still that gaggle in front of me- and yet, still no sign of the Mercia guys that had taken that left hand line 2 hills earlier. Up to the bottom of the hill, a left, and walk. Walk. Walk up the hill.
|me, trying quite hard.|
Three Quarters of the way up, another guy from the group in front slows and I overtake him on a patch of
snow. Finally, near the top of the climb, I see one of the Mercia guys that had taken the other line... coming up from the nose of Yearlet. He reaches the top before me, and starts the descent... but this time, I know the descent (unlike last year with a bit of a detour), and chase after him. I know there are others close behind, and so don't even slow when we hit ice and snow on the trail.
A flat section, followed by the road crossing and then a final dip and long descent before the closing dash.
I close down the Mercia runner, knowing that I am also being closed down by another runner... with the final fast blast coming up there was no way I was going to fall foul of someone overtaking me.
I overtook the Mercia guy, and went hard to the tree marking the last plunge.
What a superb descent that last line is.
Legs burning, lungs burning I hammer for home, and came in 14th.
1:55:52. A good 5 mins faster than last year.
|Just after finishing.|
Thanks muchly to Lynne for photos and race support, especially as she wasn't able to run the race herself... (she was a bit gutted to say the least).
Thanks also to the non-racing contingent of Andrea, Jules and Andy O - who provided race support and banter throughout the weekend.
And of course well done to all the GDH runners who had some excellent results over the weekend, I hope you all enjoyed it as much as me, enjoyment being more important than results.