A sunny bank holiday and real life racing!

It has been a busy two weeks since the last report, during which Harriers have been multi terrain relay running, virtual champsing, dot watching, mourning the loss of a running legend, training for big rounds, running socially, running in fancy dress and even actual real life racing – YAY!

Let’s look at some of the IRL racing first…

Blackstone Edge Fell Race (courtesy of Chris J.)

So this week I ran Blackstone Edge fell race. First fell race in 14 months. Great night for it with cracking weather and a pretty strong field of runners. Bit of a run out on a track, followed by a steep rough climb up to the trig.  Along the top doing a bit of rock hopping and then a tough downhill with tussocks.  It’s a great course and was very boggy. But great to get out and do some competitive running.  And see friends I have not seen in years. 

Nick Ham’s busy comeback weekend

Sat 22/05/2021: Half Tour of Bradwell. 17.5mi. with 3,356’ ascent.

Having done all ten Long Tours before they were stopped after 2018 through lack of organisational support, I enjoyed my first Winter Half Tour in Feb last year. A recent gradual reduction in the Ménière’s Disease symptoms over several months had allowed some confidence to return to allow me to venture away from sanctuary without fear of being struck down without warning. I fancied using the special 2021 reverse COVID Half Tour as a short comeback race to ease me back into regular racing post-lockdown. It would be my first proper race since Haworth Hobble over 14 months before.

The cold, damp, overcast conditions made it feel like winter as I emerged from my car on the Bradwell sports field. Still, looking on the bright side at least the rain had stopped and it wasn’t windy. There would be no registration or entering the pavilion, just collect race pack with map and route description, race number and timing bracelet from the line pegged up at the side of the track and start any time between 09:00 and 09:30. I set off at 09:30 with Darren Burns up the steep flagged route on private farmland to reach the track and right turn at the top. Daz and I chatted a lot; it had been such a long time. As expected I was immediately struggling with the effort. It wasn’t long before the trickle of late starters had stopped overtaking us. I assumed we were now the backmarkers.

I lost Daz after Check Point 1 on the descent to Shatton when I had to stop to remove my windproof top; I was burning up. I realised at the road crossing that I should have sweated a little longer and made use of the timeout for the faffing. Every little helps, but not this time. I just about caught Daz up again on the track bed to Ladybower but lost him again on the climb to the dam (gutless, weak as a kitten, me). The last glimpse was climbing through the woods to CP2, at which point an older runner re-overtook me while chuntering on about not being able to navigate and just wanting to run. He asked me if there were more navigational choices to come. I said yes, but he could follow his route description to make navigation easier. He was having none of that; he just wanted to run, brain-off stylie. I bet he went wrong again, and again.

On the descent to Aston with the scenic long-range view ahead, I was amazed that Daz was already out of sight. Was I really that slow? I was on my own running my own race and I didn’t mind one bit. I knew where I was going and was enjoying the minor challenge of navigating a familiar route in reverse for the first time, at speed with the resulting reduced brain function. (Yes, you read that right. I like living life on the edge.)

There was no checkpoint at Killhill Bridge but there did appear to be a supporting family with two young children who tentatively walked towards me with arms outstretched, one offering a bottle of water and the other a plastic tub with two Jelly Babies remaining. I smiled and thanked them but told them I was already well equipped in those departments.

As I slogged my way up the foothills of Lose Mountain (formerly known as Lose Hill) a couple of female runners slowly caught and overtook me, meaning now I really was at the back. On the descent from said ‘mountain’ I enjoyed the sights of the just-completed new fence and path stretched out below.

As I descended from Back Tor towards Castleton I began to hear two male voices. Because of my monophonic hearing (right inner ear written off by the Ménière’s) I had no idea where they were coming from, but since their conversation seemed relaxed I knew they must be recreational walkers and not more runners about to run me down. I teetered on down the watery stony track unperturbed in my own world of survival.

Halfway down the lane into Castleton I decided I’d treat myself to a little pick-me-up. I had a sachet of <ahem> ‘special powders’ in the pouch of my left-hand bottle of water. I knelt down by the side of the road to pour them in. The resulting turbo juice would serve to keep the old crock ticking over or, if fate was really on my side, give it a kick up the arse. As I performed the decantation, two blokes arrived from behind and asked if I was OK. Strange, I thought. Why would they be asking that? “Yes thanks”, I replied, “Are you?” I then asked them if they were doing the Half Tour, wondering if they were angling after being shown the way. “Well actually, we’re the sweepers. We’re clearing up the course”, meaning they were packing up the checkpoints after I’d dibbed through. Oh, they must have been the male voices then. “I’m not surprised”, I said. “I thought I was at the back.” I then tried to make excuses for my woeful slowness. They replied that I was actually going quite well. Oh tish. I tried to live up to the flattery by continuing the pained jog down into Castleton but I was soon walking again as the road climbed towards the bottom of Cave Dale.

Cave Dale: the least said about that the better. There was much trudging and some staggering as the defective balance was making itself felt. A drone buzzed somewhere overhead but I had no idea where so didn’t waste time looking up. I didn’t want to fall over anyway, which would have been the likely outcome. The sweepers remained discreetly quiet after our brief encounter. I wouldn’t have known they were there. I never dared to look back. When I eventually topped out at the final checkpoint on the track and was struggling to make it respond to my bracelet chip (I thought its battery had died), I was surprised to see the sweepers come through the gate. They had been closer than I thought – very discreet and friendly and not an unpleasant experience. I must be last again in a race some time.

I turned for Bradwell down the stony track. As I neared the bottom I thought I could spy Daz ahead. I was slowly catching him. I wondered if he would turn right on the long way round to the top of Pin Dale or continue ahead down the footpath straight into Pin Dale, as indicated in the route notes. He turned right but was too far ahead to call back. I went ahead to emerge part way down the horrible rocky track down Pin Dale. I engaged the painful shuffle on complaining legs past a burnt-out car (scumbags have even infiltrated Bradwell now) to the footpath right-turn at the bottom. A van was backed up into the entrance, hiding it. I guessed it might have caused other runners to miss it. I writhed my racked body through the cement works, up (steeply) through the woods and down the road to the pavilion and the final dib. The pain of forcing a run when a walk was all I was really capable of rekindled racing memories of old, pre-pandemic. It was magic. My time was 4:21:25, which wasn’t far off last year’s Winter Half time.

Daz and the sweepers came in shortly after. We were offered our finisher’s bottle of beer for later (to be added to my years-old collection of post-race beers in the fridge) and a nice refreshing cup of tea for now, and we were implored to take lots of bananas away. They ALWAYS over-order the bananas.

As I sat with Daz on the pavilion steps drinking tea, the sun came out for the first time that day. The parking area, full when we started, now had two cars left – Daz’s and mine. I struggled to walk back to it. How on earth would I manage tomorrow?

Sun 23/05/2021: Windmill 6.

Were it not for the carry-over from last year I would never have been here. I’m glad I was though, because it’s amazing what a good night’s sleep does for recovery. My legs felt a lot more willing to move me than they had after yesterday’s effort. After arriving at Birdsedge and I’d walked and jogged off the stiffness from the drive, I felt ready to ‘do my thang’ once again. I saw David Chrystie-Lowe jogging up the lane ready for his 10:30 start. I was due to go at 10:35. It was my first reunion with a clubmate in over 14 months and it felt gooerd. In fact I’d go as far as to say it felt oaarsim.

The weather was much brighter than yesterday’s but much breezier with a bracing wind. I had my windproof on to keep out the chill. I followed David up towards the start to take pictures, where a marshal said we could start whenever we wanted. I could understand the relaxed attitude because the runners were very thinly spaced. Perhaps there were a lot of no-shows?

David wasted little time in setting off. In no time he was a rapidly receding spec in the distance when I crossed the timing strips (our timing chips were on the back of our race numbers) to start my race early, pressing the start button on my watch as I went. The first left turn was directed by two friendly marshals. A little further along, cheering to my right came from residents standing behind their metal mansion gates. WOW, we were back racing again. Soon our anticlockwise route around the turbines took us onto roads shared by a cycle race. Some of the riders even offered acknowledgements.

I had been expecting later runners to overtake me from the off but it wasn’t happening. Perhaps I was running fast. Well, I hadn’t taken any walking breaks anyway. I glanced at my watch and recall the number 11. 2+ miles in 11+ minutes? In my oxygen-starved mental fug from the intense effort I figured that my pace was nudging twice that of my recent NOTparkrun attempts. I was a affleet and I felt epic. Much later than expected the first runner overtook me with encouragement-in-passing. His pace was barely faster than mine and I still felt epic. I was overtaking more runners than were overtaking me and I felt epic some more.

Now on the long undulating homeward straight I glanced at my watch again to see how I was doing, to be greeted by the normal time and date display. THE B’ST’D WASN’T EVEN RECORDING! The sound of massed whoopee cushions must have been deafening and I probably reversed the turbines as I deflated and came back down to reality. I went through the motions of button-pressing to select exercise-run-start to record what little remained. I had to pull off my windproof down to my right wrist to cool off, such was the effort now. My spirits lifted as I neared the finish and saw David jogging back down the course on his warm down. He joined me for the uphill finish with words of encouragement and I ‘powered my way’ to the finish line.

Well done David with your 0:45:31 and 1st M60 finish – not too shabby at all, although a lot more shabby than the 30-odd minutes I imagined I was heading for. Don’t laugh: the winning time was 0:35:36. Oops. My 0:55:21 got me 7th out of 8 M55s – crap but strangely satisfying under the circumstances of a double-header on the back of no running fitness. David and I were the only Glossopdale runners there, although more had been registered.

It felt great to be ‘rocking the blue and orange’ again after such a long time. The next ‘rocking’ will be at The Cake Race next Saturday.

Nick H.

Other Racing gleaned from FB…

The (No) Cake Race: Whilst there was no cake competition this year, there was still racing and it was great to see a number of Harriers taking part. Turns out that there was still cake, phew, albeit purchased rather than homebaked.

Trail pursuit in Ambleside: Janet D. did the 10k, Nick & Rosie did the half marathon and then there was some swimming.

Club Challenges

  • GDH Multi-Terrain Relays: Much fun was had by all participants in last weekend’s multi-terrain relays which were brilliantly organised by Immy T. and Ian C.    Clad once more in blue and orange, Harriers broke out new shoes, rediscovered their race faces and picked a range of interesting lines between the turning circle and cock hill trig.  Whilst running hard was a shock to the system for a number of us after a year of not racing, it was great to catch up with familiar faces and to meet new Harriers – defs something to bear in mind as a recurring feature in our annual club calendar <please>. The next monthly mashup will take place on Saturday 19th June and will be a tarmac-based score course. 
  • Virtual Club Champs: Given that tomorrow is June, it is defs lastchanceville for May’s virtual champs challenge (the GDH 10k).  As from tomorrow, the challenge of the month will be Rounds the Resers which can be done either as the actual race or at any point during the month. 

Please do keep in touch

As the racing calendar unlocks, we would love to hear about your running related antics.  Please let us know at the usual email address gdhweeklyreports@gmail.com

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