April 2012

It could have been worse

With a new, slower, route  to navigate, this year’s Calderdale Hike was always going to be a long, slow day out. Although quite how long and slow I didn’t anticipate.

Term ended a week or so before, so time to recharge my batteries and then ramp up the training. But it takes more than a few decent nights sleep to do that. On Easter Monday I’d planned to wave the other-half off on a work trip and then head off to the Peak District for a day’s running. I actually headed straight back to bed and slept for another four hours. And a shorter long run near home became even shorter when I couldn’t summon the energy to run fast enough to keep warm in the rain.

Two days later I decided to do my first stair climbing session of the year. Nothing OTT, just 7 repeats of 300 steps. It was hard, but I thought I came out of it unscathed. Until I woke up in the middle of the night with my calves screaming, and could barely walk down the stairs the next morning... Throw in a non-existent night’s sleep the night before and I nearly didn’t bother even getting out of bed. But spending a day feeling miserable out on the hills was a better prospect than feeling even more miserable sat on the sofa.

The new route offered various route choices in the first few miles which I’d agonised over. But in fact they were much of a muchness on the ground. At least the back end of the field kept splitting, taking different routes, and then coming back together again. After a few miles reversing the Wuthering Hike route it was onto the moors and ‘route choice’ number 2. Pathless, direct route across boggy ground. Or two of the side of the rectangle, paths all the way, or fence line followed by track. I went for the paths all the way option. Which was a mistake. The paths were no more runnable than going straight across bog, and often indistinguishable from sheep-trods. Leading to a minor navigation snafu of the ‘I know exactly where I am. I know exactly where I’m going. But how do I get there (given the ravine in front of me)’ variety. A group of 3 blokes with a GPS who left the last checkpoint just before me went for the diagonal route, and pulled 5 minutes out of me (I could still see them occasionally in the distance). But worse than that, on reaching the opposite corner of the rectangle I spotted someone I hadn’t seen for 10+ miles running (something I hadn’t managed much of for a while....) along the track.

The next check-point was being packed up, which didn’t exactly boost my mood. And to add insult to injury they suggested that if I pushed a bit I could catch the blokes in front and run with them. Yes I planned to catch them, but running with them wasn’t part of the plan...

It was several check-points later before I managed it. Some quick banter and I went past them, and ran up the road and straight past the footpath I should have turned off onto... I  eventually caught them again and we ran together for a bit (with me taking advantage, I hate to admit, of them having the route in their GPS). They’d planned a marginally longer, but easier to run/navigate route off of the moors. Given my earlier screw-ups I did a mental U-turn and uttered the shameful words ‘I’lll stick with you’  (being a girly navigational leech is the last thing I aspire to...). In fact the sticking together lasted for all of about 3 minutes. With 30 miles in my legs I was finally warmed up and, without noticing, pulled ahead on the descent. I briefly considered waiting. But with ~6 miles of largely runnable track and road to go I could smell the finish.... and got there to find Dick Scroop half way through his post race jacket potato, having finished one place in front of me.

I was nearly an hour slower than my previous worst Calderdale time. Part (but not all) of that is down to the new route, and my dodgy navigation of it. For most of the day it felt like I was right at the back of the field (and if they hadn’t extended the cut-off towards the end of the race I’d have missed it by a couple of minutes). However when the results came out there were half a dozen people up to an hour behind me. I wasn’t last, and I didn’t injure myself. It could have been worse.