I ache. The High Peak 40 is no easy race. It's challenging on many levels. The mixture of fell, road, technical, ascent/descent and public dodging makes for an interesting day in the Peak District.
I've recce'd the course a couple of times and am pleased that I did. However this course is marked, really well, really really well so those who are tentative with a map, this is a race that will suit.
An early Saturday start driving over to Buxton, I circled the event area at the school three times trying to find the entrance. Things were not looking good from the start!
Found it, albeit not the entrance that everyone else was using.. haha. So pulled into the School and surprisingly saw Ian Bishop, I was so pleased, that he'd made it (as he didn't think that he could). With his race number in hand he headed off to get changed. It was great to see him as after a recce day we had recently he was fired up to enter the race. He'd not done all that much training recently given that he's well into his new hobby of film making at the moment, however, he's been ticking over and felt that he could do ok. So I parked up, got changed and went to registration.
Ian appeared all ready to go, with two gels in his hand.... 'is that all ya got' said I, and had to agree when he said, 'to be honest there are checkpoints with fuel' fairly regularly. I opened my pack and to my embarrassment the 12 gels, waterproofs, maps and the kitchen sink spill out... how inadequate and novice it felt!!!!! I dumped my H20 jacket in the car and we made our way to the race start. So, not feeling grand having struggled to find the entrance, realising that I was carrying far to much gear and then feeling tired ah yes, the feeling tired, my legs felt heavy and I knew that I was not going to perform at my best today.. was there anything else that could unsettle a girl on a start line?
So, the course, a loop which starts and finishes in Buxton, taking in a dismantled railway leading to Furnilee Reservoir and follows the river Goyt. There are public footpaths across fields and lanes up to Eccels pike. A road section brings you nicely on the Pennine Bridalway, to an awesome secion to Rush up Edge. It's a steady drawn out climb, before being able to fly down the well worn yet technical path. Why are the descents always over too quickly? Another steady climb up to Lords seat brings you eventually to Mam Tor and Hollins cross, before another opportunity to leg it down in to Castleton.
The weather was amazing, perfect even. I've been so lucky each time I've been out to the Peaks recently with the weather. I met a chap, John (Hedger) whom I found to be a very consistent and solid runner and someone who I generally matched well pace to pace with throughout the race. The remainder of the race saw him and I regularly spending 10 mins together before he headed off and I caught him again, great fun.
Through Cave Dale we chatted away, which made the ascent come and go easily, I've struggled with running this lil incline during recce's and knew that i'd probably be walking it during the race. Regardless, with the distraction it was soon up to the top before heading to Tideswell, through the village and pushing on into Tideswell Dale. A very beautiful path onto the Monsal Trail leading to Deep dale. A very not so pretty section of mud if you are looking at the ground, but if you lift your head, you're in a gorgeous valley. I was pretty tired by now, hamstrings screaming at me and not surprisingly my quads groaning with tiredness. They were doing that on the start line.. silly quads! So I was slowing but going and pushed on to ......THE ROAD SECTION. Argghhhh, it hurt! I'm not a road runner, why did I enter this race? So, I can't really call it a run on that road section, you work out what it was (if you've been there, hobble/shuffle maybe), however I winged it through Chelmorton village and headed towards Checkpoint 11.
I was desperate for a climb. And there it was, a rapid descent into deep dale 2 and a brilliant last climb out, it's short and sharp and I loved it. There was a field full of killer cows that a very lovely couple talked me through as the beasts were all blocking the style. Thank you lovely couple for guiding me through, I found the check point where there was a lot of encouragement and motivational comments from the marshals. I've never really considered myself as 'needing' motivation from elsewhere, I'm pretty self motivated generally, however I've noticed during these events, that the smallest comments of 'well done' and some 'clapping' can carry you and lift you and when someone says your name as well, well... it gives you wings too!!! So off I flew on the final run 'home'.
Now, of all the places that I could have fretted in terms of losing my way the only real occasion was upon approaching the finish at the School. I had not recce'd this section! I had no idea where I was going to approach the school from after emerging from the narrow lane and as you already know, I struggled finding my way into the school at the beginning of the day! I came out of the lane and met a road. Pink sign with an arrow on a lamppost.. thanks you. Straight on, then.... nothing, I panicked... 40 (and a bit) miles and I get lost now. Amazing, I amaze myself sometimes.. haha. So, I see another pink sign, upside down and fallen. I pick it up and there is an arrow. So I point the arrow to the left and follow it. Amazing logic. Luckily it was the right way as I saw some flags and a finish sign beyond some trees. Boom. Home!
It was nice to receive my 'Olympic' replica medal on the finish line.. haha, and to put some faces to names in the canteen afterwards. Duncan Harris (first male), a remarkable man, very measured and integral, like his running, and Karen Nash, an outstanding ultra runner. Gerry Dewhurst, whom I've had the pleasure of running with in the mountains in Wales and a woman who I find inspirational and strong willed, she revealed her recent adventure at the UTMB , she did amazingly well.
Prize giving saw me receive a box of 'cliff' bars. I don't usually use them so they'll be in the boot of my car for all to share, be sure to ask me for one :) Happy days
A brilliant race, I adored every step of it. Given my tiredness I was happy enough with my performance. First lady, time of 6 hours and 27 mins. 10th overall.
Thanks to Ian Bishop (who suffered a calf injury during the race and had to pull out at mile 20) and Iain Ridgeway who both tolerated me during recce's and without them I'd know I would not have had such a brilliant race.
High Peak 40