Coming around again!

It's metaphoric, It's the High Peak 40 and it's come around again. However, there is another 'coming around' that has me smiling as much as winning the race. I'm elated that I won it again this year. Having bettered last years time it's a great indication that things are heading in the right direction. Lessons learnt from past race experiences were put into practice so for example on the two occasions where I was tempted to follow others off the course thinking that they knew of better routes, I drew on my Tour de Helvellyn experience and stuck to what I'd recce'd. It paid off on both occasions those involved were lost and lost time.  The race was 40.4 miles with 1866m/ 6,124ft of ascent. (Thanks for the stats Nick Ham).

The other coming around was to do with cramping. I'm still learning and building strength so, inevitably it seems, that things happen during races that I learn from physically. High Peak 40 2013 presented me with a new challenge. 

I'd started fast, having tapered reasonably well, I was ready for a blast. That blast had me paralysed within 25 mins. There is a road section to start with before a steady subtle incline leading to a steeper section through Beet Wood, once you've pounded up there you have the opportunity to hammer it down over the fell to the disused railway where it's flat trail and time to loosen those legs off. Having made the climb through Beet wood and raising to the top of the fell, I knew something was drastically wrong. My quadriceps  and adductors started flickering, then more, then more as I ran and by the time I'd descended to the disused railway they had seized into rock solid spasm, the pain was excruciating and I could not run. I could not move and discovered that if i swung my legs from my hips then I could at least put one foot in front of the other. My quads were stuck fast, they would not let go. It was race over. I stopped. 

I had no idea what to do having not experienced this before. So I did what all good runners would do.. I bent over to touch my toes! This didn't work. So I started to swing my  rock solid legs about in some kind of walking fashion. The pain I had started to get accept used but I continued to struggle to communicate through it to other runners who were flying past me. There was a man, a very nice man... 'come on Tracy' 'can't' I said, cramps in both quads, my legs have seized', 'you'll be ok, keep going, see you five mins'. 'No you won't' I thought, I can barely walk let alone run'. By this time there were moments when the spasms relaxed for a few seconds and when that happened I lifted the legs for a stretch. The relaxing became more frequent and I was able to gentle start to walk in a normal manner. The pain remained more of a throb now rather than excruciating. I was unsure that if I started to jog that the spasm would come back, so, I started to jog, it came back, I stopped and the whole process started again.

I thought ok, it's definitely race over, i'll just get to the first check point and retire. And yet, the 'very nice mans' words were ringing, 'see you in five minutes'. 'You can't give up this easily Deano', I kept telling myself  'come on, work this out'.  I suspected dehydration, so I just drank sips of water and in a combination of walk, knee lifts and jogs I approached CP1. I wanted to have exhausted all options before pulling out, so I took the decision to use this hobbled and cobbled approach to running to he next check point and if I was still experiencing this by then, then I'd retire. Karen Nash came flying past, 'you look injured' she said. 'Nah, just a bit of cramp' I smiled... and started to run, the frequency of the spasms were getting less and less and I was able to run through them, I knew I was on the edge of setting it off again, however I just kept easing back when a familiar warning of gentle tightening started in each quad and adductors. By the time I reached Checkpoint two I was running again and the race started. 

There are two potential explanations for my experience here (and I'm not saying it's true for everyone or even the actual causes). There are, without doubt, two things that I did differently both before and during this race and they have both (if not tenuously) been linked to muscle spasms/cramps elsewhere. Firstly I had not hydrated in the days before the race as I ordinarily would, I was massively de-hydrated. Secondly, I went out of the start line way faster than I usually would, yes I'm an eager beaver at the start, however on this occasion even more so. The combination of dehydration and running hard from the off = spasms and cramp. The solution: slow down for ten mins, and drink water.

My biggest learning though, was that you can get over muscle cramping/spasms during a race if you don't panic, and work it out. I'm so pleased to have come around again from it to finish the race. This has been the a great experience and I owe a huge thanks to the 'very nice man', who shook me out of my defeatist state. High Peak 40 what a race :)

Matty Brennan 3rd male and fellow TORQ fed athlete and I

High Peak 40 First lady (and 1st Female Vet) : 6hrs 21 mins and 10th overall

Tracy Dean - 6.21.32
Antonia Johnson - 6.53.24
Karen Nash - 7.04.16
Duncan Harris - 5.26.13
Stewart Walker - 5.33.55
Matty Brennan - 5.51.01

Thanks to TORQ for fueling me
Thanks to INOV-8 for making sure I'm wearing proper trail running footwear
Thanks to BUFF for keeping my ears warm and my hair out of my eyes.


  1. Whilst Googling for HP40 related stuff I just stumbled on your blog. I recognised you as first lady. well done on the race and overcoming cramp. I suffered with it in the stupid down and up gully that is Deep Dale. Also thanks for the fame at last. Thats the top of my head between you and Matty :-)


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