Monday, 8 March 2010

All This Way for a Lousy T-shirt?

That's unfair. It's actually quite a nice t-shirt, though I could have made off with this without doing the race itself, seeing as I'd handed over my cash and been given the bright red tee before the start. Anyway, I stuck around, and this is what happened...

High Peak Marathon, 5-6th March, 42 miles.

After a last minute reshuffle which saw Emma join Clare's Pussycat Trolls (see last blog entry) we drafted in a late substitute: Kev. A solid ultra-distance runner who finished last year's Fellsman in 20th, and currently in training for this year's Lakeland 100. On the day then, team 34 - Traversers, was made up of myself, Brian, Andy & Kev.

Turning up with a few hours to go before the start enabled Brian and I to get our kit together, and start scoffing some of the plentiful (and free!) cakes, malt loaf & sandwiches, washed down with plenty of sweet tea. Saw the other survivors of last week's recce, gave Clare some Gore-Tex mitts (part of my enhanced kit list after the wild weather last Friday), paid Andy for the pleasure of the next few hours, and got my t-shirt.

I started getting a bit anxious as we neared 10 o'clock and Kev still wasn't to be seen. I mean, what kind of nutter would agree to a 42 mile night time run with just about 48hrs notice? Surely he'd seen sense? But luckily he did show (weirdo), bringing his son along to run with Ian's (our recce navigator) Nuns from Chinley. But at least we had a team. We dumped the last of the stuff we didn't need in the car, and one very thorough kit check later, we were good to go.

Traversers before the off (from l-r): Kev, me, Andy & Brian

The rest of the time was passed drinking and nervously chatting to our fellow runners. Then our team was called up, we dobbed our dibber*, and at 23.24, we were off.

Andy and Kev settled into a fairly quick pace early on, and it wasn't long before we were passing other teams (I think 3 before CP1 at Hollins Cross). At this point the pace was bearable, but I did wonder how long I'd realistically be able to keep it up. I also had to abandon my chest pouch (see pic above) at this point. Bouncing up and down at home and in the village hall it was fine. Running properly, it just kept flapping up and down, so I shoved it in my sack, and redistributed some food to my jacket and the waist straps of my rucksack. Half an hour in, I really started struggling. I developed some bad stomach cramps. After a Paula Radcliffe moment on the climb up to Win Hill failed to alleviate things I was already thinking of giving up, wondering how I could possibly make it round the full route feeling like this. I decided to stick it out for a bit and gradually found myself running more freely, with a bit of nursing round by Kev. As we came into the food stop at Moscar it had reduced to a dull ache, and despite the sickly feeling in my stomach, managed to force some more malt loaf and a cup of tea down.

The gentle run down to CP6 at Cutthroat Bridge on the road seemed to do wonders: it allowed a steady running pace, and gave time for the food to do its work. By the time we hit the rough stuff again at Cutthroat Bridge (the start point of our recce), the stomach was ignorable, and I could just focus on keeping Kev or Andy's heels in view. At this point Brian was beginning to struggle, and he wouldn't really recover for the rest of the race. As he has described it since, he just couldn't take on and keep down the fuel needed, so he settled into a slower plod. The pattern of running then waiting for Brian began to establish itself. This was alright for me as it gave me a chance to get my breath back, or take on a bit of food, but because of the pace I couldn't really allow myself to hang back for Brian too much - I was worried that having found my rhythm I might lose it again - though I did run with him in patches.

Looking back, I should have got Kev and Andy to slow down for Brian. I guess this highlights the danger of a last minute team on such an event: the gap between Andy & Kev, and Brian & me was probably too big. If they slowed for Brian too much, they got cold; by going too fast, Brian and I were drained.

Anyway, the gap was never a dangerous one, possibly until later in the race. All across Bleaklow (which I saw more of by moonlight than during the day last week!) Brian was in touching distance and we were stopping regularly. The gap really started opening after the second food stop at the Snake Pass crossing. At this point Brian and I both insisted we walk while we ate our food: a Marmite butty, and a very tasty slice of some cake or other. After that the run started again on the first really runnable section since Cutthroat Bridge: over the slabs of the Pennine Way to Mill Hill. At Mill Hill I got my camera out for the first time since we started whilst waiting for Brian (not long this time).

Photos from Mill Hill (CP16), c/wise from top L: Looking back towards Bleaklow; two of the typicaly chipper students manning the various CPs; ahead towards Kinder and beyond; Kev and Andy looking pleased with themselves, and annoyingly fresh

I was feeling very strong at this point and I waved the team off to start without me while I finished taking pictures and mucked about with some kit. I then had a fairly pacey run to the base of Kinder where I caught up with Brian. Given I was feeling much stronger now, I was happy to stick with Brian knowing I could keep both me and him going. After reaching the top of the Kinder plateau though, this was more forced than a choice, as my knee decided this was the moment to pack in. My old ITB problem reared its head with (I think) 10 miles to go. Probably had a lot to do with the terrain we were running on: the first time it ever went was after running on surfaces where the foot 'squidges' from side to side before biting (like in mud, and ice, and snow), and to this point I'd been running over 30-odd miles of nothing but, well, mud, and ice, and snow! Every step now sent a sharp pain into the outside of my right knee. In particular on the downhill bits. Though on Kinder it undulates quite a lot, Kinder sits c350ft above Edale, with a couple of smaller climbs to (and therefore descents down from) Brown Knoll, Lord's Seat, Mam Tor and Hollins Cross. These last 10mi therefore, hurt. A lot.

Once we caught up with Kev and Andy at Jacob's Ladder (CP17) I then just had to stick with them to get the run over with as soon as possible. Purely a psychological trick: Brian was the dobber, so it still wouldn't end until we all dibbed in at the CPs and crossed the line together. It was also a very poor excuse not to wait for him and it was at this point the gap started increasing, though Kev recognised this and so when the gap got too big, he ran back and stuck with Brian. I've since apologised for this, and my conscience finally made itself heard on the approach to Hollins Cross (the last CP, CP19), where I said that after this point we should all run the remainder of the way together.

If you speak to Brian he was perfectly happy as he knows he can plod for miles and for him it was just a question of fuel, or lack thereof. I don't want to paint him as having suffered too much, but in a team event like this, I just think we should all have taken more care of him.

Anyway, we did do the last bit together, with me swearing all the way down from Hollins Cross to the road, which gave us a nice final trot back to the village hall to warm applause, warm tea, and a delicious warm stew, cooked up by the organisers.

Ian's team (which included Kev's son) came in 3rd in 9h37 - a cracking result (see the write up of this race in Laid Back Fellrunner, below).

We sat and ate our stews, supping teas whilst we cheered home a few more teams, including Sir Ranulph Fiennes'** team, Poles Apart. After a while, it needed more than teas and story swapping to keep us warm, so we headed out to the cars to get into clean, dry clothes. At this point, Brian had the genius idea of heading off to a pub for a hard-earned pint instead of back into the hall. So we did. And by golly did it taste nice! We did get some funny looks from the patrons as we both hobbled in, and answered their curiosity with a brief outline of what the past half a day had entailed. Which resulted in even funnier looks.

Once home, it was in the bath, finish off my two uneaten slices of gala pie, and then to bed for a couple of hours. A big chippy tea and a pint of Snecklifter and I hit the sack again. A couple of hours in the local Spa on Sunday and I was just about getting back to feeling human, and with my knee/feet/leg/underarm(chafeage)/back pains easing off. Remains to be seen how serious my ITB problem is this time, though the last time it went properly I couldn't bend the knee for a few days, so the fact I could from the day after gives me hope. Fingers crossed.

Overall this is a fantastic event, with some great organisation, and well supported by the students of Sheffield University; bravely manning the checkpoints scattered across the moors through the darkest hours, and in the freezing cold. Big thanks to them all. I think I would look to do this again, possibly a bit quicker, but definitely with more of a team ethos. For those into this kind of thing, it comes with my huge recommendation.

Well done to all who made it round, better luck next time to those who didn't. I'm off to put my feet up and wonder why on Earth I chose to put myself through it all...whilst looking up the entries for the 61 mile Fellsman in May!!

For other accounts of the race see here:
Laid Back Fellrunner
Tea & Cake
Donning Studs in May
Just Us and a few friends

*Each team is given a dibber, which at each CP, and the start/finish is dobbed by putting the dibber into the dobber which results in a bleep. You have therefore been dobbed and can continue running. The person with the dibber, is known as the dobber.

**Sir Ranulph Fiennes suffered a bad car crash on the way home from this event. Luckily no-one was seriously hurt. Report here.


  1. Well done Gary
    That T shirt was earned, well earned. Nice to see you 4 get back to edale safely. You will be back next year YES

  2. Good stuff! Sounds like hard work. Hope the ITB's on the mend.

  3. I nearly got the black marker pen out for my t-shirt, hardly well earned :-( Still I worked out I did the first bit friday, the 2nd bit the week before on the 26th and the last bit in January on the tail end of ANOTHER Dark Peak in essence I have done the HPM, err just not all at once!!! ;-)

  4. Worked hard for that tshirt then. Nice one!

  5. Daz - you know what? I probably will look to do it all again next year!

    Geoff - Ran out on it last night and crocked it - but only because I fell and landed hard on a stone. Touch wood, ITB seems quiet. :)

    Emma - I think our recce counts as double thedistance, so virtually there! Always next year.

    Lesley - It's not been off my back since Monday! (Beginning to whiff a bit :-o )

  6. you didn't seem to be struggling when you flew past us ;)

    i had exactly the same concerns about joining a team so late. not sure if it's to do with gender or just luck but i'm really pleased to say that we did get round as a 'team'. one person was struggling a little more but we managed to keep together and finished with smiles.

    great time btw! hope your itb isn't too serious

  7. Thanks Kate - great result for you too. I think I was coming out the other side by the point we overtook you: was just before Moscar, wasn't it?