^^The blurb for a 30 mile lap, no idea what it means really,
but I know it was fucking hilly!
but I know it was fucking hilly!
I'd looked into this race last year and decided there was too much road for me, but it was still hovering somewhere in the back of my mind. During a run with a mate I mentioned it and he offered to do a recce with me. Perfect, see if it was indeed too much road and if so then at least I'd have seen somewhere new and had a long training run. We did that early October and it all went well, it was so hilly that I figured the amount of hard trail/tarmac didn't matter, it was the hills that'd kill me if anything.
Then we got to Wessenden Head and I heard something that chilled my bones. Apparently it's the most recent place they've searched for Keith Bennett. And there's a shrine at the roadhead which really got to me, fucking grim it was. Now some things scare me to the point of vomiting - heights, the dark, spiders - but the moors murderers and spirits really freak me out. Laugh if you like, it is what it is :-) Fuck fuck fuck, what to do. I kept an eye on the entry list for a week or two, figuring I still had plenty of time to think about this. Then Sharon mentioned it was up to 64 entries and so on the spur of the moment I entered.
Race Day dawned, got the 07.36 up to Huddersfield with the kitchen sink in my kit bag then a taxi out to Linthwaite. The race HQ was fab, there were so few ladies in the race that we had a huge cloakroom to ourselves and could spread all our gear out in readiness for our return after each loop. I spent most of the time in there pre-race chilling and chatting. Telling the RD to put safety pins in his mouth wasn't my finest moment but he was teasing me about ghosts so, sorry Wane, but it was called for ;-) Saw Carl, he pointed out his stash of Guinness saying to help myself, I said I'd keep it in mind for later.
And then we were off. I think the first half of the loop is definitely harder, a lot of steep uphills through villages and such. The Bog of Doom is about 3 miles in, it had been fine on the recce, but on Saturday it was indeed a splodgy sinky mess. No point wasting time trying to get round it so in we went. By the first CP I'd learned that the girl I was chatting to had serious PB times (she went on to win First Lady) so I let her go at that point and ran my own race. Having such frequent water and feed points is fantastic, being a winter 100 you've enough gear to carry just to cater for the weather so not having to worry about water is a huge bonus. Plus the encouragement from the marshals is always welcome.
I won't go into too much detail about the route, it is lovely though, the views are fantastic from pretty much everywhere. The terrain is a bastard, so many sharp rocky rutted tracks, there were many curses uttered. And as for the farm sideways cobbled tracks, what the fuck, they're clearly put in to save money / discourage anyone from using them (apart from eejit runners). One particular fucker is Plains Lane. Oh God that hurts. Oh and Green Lane, that's evil too. I like the climb up Wessenden, it's a shame it's got that story attached to it, but that's my own personal issue, it wouldn't bug most people I guess. The mile downhill afterwards is fab, till your quads and knees are in bits and you can't actually run it!
Meltham Moor is lovely. It's all quite different to where I usually run in that down here when you're on the moors then you're usually miles away from even a sight of civilisation, whereas up there there are lots of roads and villages but still the same feeling of space and being able to see for miles around.
I'd been chatting to Louise at various points and going up Wessenden as dusk fell it really helped to have her luminous pink shorts and socks to focus on rather than think about spooky things! Plus there were other runners behind us so I got through that bit ok, had a chat with James at the top and then the final 5 miles back to HQ and preparing for the 2nd leg.
Carl was in the hall when I got in and he pressed 2 cans of Guinness on me (ok, he didn't have to press very hard!). I had one of them, half a Pot Noodle, a cup-a-soup, put on tights and more layers and then back out. I think it was about a 25 minute turnaround but I could do it quicker next time.
It was dark now but I joined up with Tarne and Dharm and they were great company. The Bog of Doom was quite disorientating in the dark, we ended up going through much more of it than we needed to, ho hum :-) I'd changed my shoes after the 1st loop, started off in Inov-8 Trail Talon 250's, which were grand, but I think the first BoD crossing didn't help and after a couple of hours I realised that the insoles were coming out. They were so muddy after 30 miles I decided to just change into clean 212's and be done with it. They were soon muddy right through as well but did the job.
I had my headtorch on but was also carrying a hand torch (as recommended by Graham, thank you it was perfect!!) and never had to worry about changing batteries as I mostly just used the hand torch (£26 from Screwfix, bargain).
Going up Wessenden for the second time I made sure to stick close to Tarne. Didn't tell him why till we were safely through :-) It was bloody freezing overnight, never been out in conditions like it. Well, Kinder in the hail or snow might compare, but better cold than heat!
Parts of the second loop dragged, parts went quicker, it was hard being out in the dark for so long and we were swaying a bit like drunkards. I said I was going to have a power nap when we got back to HQ and the others agreed. Set my alarm for 15 minutes, didn't sleep at all, said 'fuck it' and set it for another 20. Managed to get a doze in then decided I had better get up and get on with it. I did envy those who had sleeping bags, I was on the floor with my coat over me, but it was definitely the right thing to do, stopping then would've been so easy. There were quite a few bodies lying around and I couldn't make it which ones were Tarne or Dharm. I asked Wane and he said Dharm was still sleeping and Tarne had just left so I ran out in pursuit. Didn't catch him though, and then said fuck it I'm not doing the BoD and those awkward stony trails in the dark in case I go wrong with a foggy brain, so I slowed down and hit the BoD at dawn. Full of cows it was. Bastards. I shouted some made up word (think it was "GIP") to make them move aside, one big bastard wouldn't move and I couldn't be arsed to go around him so I shouted "you can fuck off an' all!!!" and he moved. Idiots.
Texted my Ma around 08.30 to say Happy Birthday, I couldn't text a proper message as my hand was frozen after a few words, so once again apologies for that and sorry for making you tracker watch on your birthday!
Met up with Duncan around Pole Moor and we spent the rest of the race together which was good :-) What loop am I talking about now? Third, daylight, yes. Christ my brain is still foggy. What was particularly lovely about this loop was that the 30 and 60 milers started at 8am and lots of them gave us encouragement as they passed. I've done it before to 100 milers in a race, sometimes thinking "I bet he's thinking "oh piss off I'm in bits and I'm death marching" ", but it really is heartwarming to hear when you're on the receiving end so I'll keep doing it. It was a pity not to be able to run the downhills properly, it is usually where I'll make up a lot of time, but it just hurt too much by then :-)
I think the hardest part of all was getting in to HQ after 90 miles and having to go back out for the final 10 mile loop. That was a total headfuck and I'd rather it was just one 40 mile loop so when you're done you're done. But I guess that's part of this race, having the mental attitude to get back out after each loop regardless. Not sure I'd have done it without Duncan, my Garmin had run out of power so we'd no GPX or idea of how far we'd gone, we were just roaming around looking for arrows in the dark as I'd cleverly left my printed out map at HQ. There were many many curses then and "I'm not doing this fucking race again" etc but we got it done and then, finally, it was the end :-)
The hardest race yet, without a doubt, I hated parts so much I swore I'd never run them again and happily said goodbye and stuck my middle finger up at them on the final loop. But even before bedtime last night I was thinking about what I could improve on for next time. I need to eat more, boiled eggs didn't work at all, I ended up chucking them as they tasted minging in the cold, chocolate was too hard (apart from Fiona's welcome Mars bar on Wessenden) and I puked a few times. I had loads of Kendal mint cake with me but only ate a quarter of it as it was too much faff to get it out, a waist belt for food might be a good idea.
I reckon, unless another winter race grabs me more next year, I'll be back for this one :-) Once again huge thanks to Wane, Ally, James, Nick and everyone else involved with the race - the organisation and atmosphere were great, I can't fault the markings at all, where I went wrong was down to distraction on my own part, and them being out in that weather and still smiling and giving us encouragement and much needed human contact was marvellous.
I'm so thankful for the great company I had along the way - Louise, Tarne, Dharm and Duncan. Thanks for the encouragement from all those who I'd discussed this race with over the last few weeks while I wondered if I could do it - Nici and Sharon thank you for believing :-) Fiona it was so cool to see you, the hugs and Mars bars were awesome :-) Ally you're a little star, I'll not read any more about Wessenden so if I have to run it on my own int dark next time I'll be ok :-)
All the photos above were taken on my recce run in October, it was too cold on race day to get the phone out. Definitely things to think about for next time, having run through a Peak District winter I was fairly well prepared for the cold but in reality could've done with another layer, that wind on Wessenden is an evil Arctic bitch. And buffs are good for me for a while then they start to choke me. Maybe a balaclava. If I can find one that doesn't look dodgy!
Right, enough rambling, time for another Epsom salts soak and a beer :-)