Destination Bradwell, a little old lead mining village nestled in the heart of the Peak District, supporting the ‘Long and Half Tour of Bradwell’ either a very tough 33 mile 6300 feet Ultra trail fell run (Long Tour) or a more mild option of the 15.5 mile 3000ft trail fell run (Half Tour). Last year I opted for the Long Tour, this year things had become a bit milder due to injury over the past few months so the Half Tour was more than half enough for me.
As the Long Tour guys lined up for a 9am start, I was still faffing frantically with my full FRA kit including waterproof trousers and top, compass and map, knowing fully well that they weren’t needed today in blazing 25 degree heat but rules are rules, and just like last year I would have the full kit on me. No skimping on equipment – its just not worth it.
After a last minute toilet stop and a brief chat to Simon aka @fellmonkey78 I was in the excited mindset to run.
100% chance of a run
So here we were once again on the village green. Beginning with humourism from the organisers – 50p a squirt for some suncream and being told to drink lots of water in todays crazy heat. Much truth in this as we found out later people had suffered from dehydration on the Long Tour. I glanced around always nervous that others look the part and even after a few years of running I always doubt myself on that start line. I look back at last years Long Tour race. It is hard to still accept after 12 months that I actually won the Long Tour of Bradwell, not realising at the time that the 6 hours and 6 minutes of running with near on 7000ft of climb was only 3 minutes off the women’s course record held by the incredible Nicky Spinks. Get a grip woman and just run.
far from what I was but not yet what I am going to be
And we were off, hurtling up the field. I have gradually learned to place myself in a suitable position and try and get a start where I am not too congested. Through the gate in the wall we all went, no major queues as we all proceeded along the rocky lane. My breathing felt all over the place. I don’t wear a HR monitor perhaps I should, as I could feel out of breath on the little incline up to the woodlands. The first mile consists of beautiful up’ness and down’ness. The trail meandering behind the blot on the landscape – Hope steel works. I am not sure where I was in the pack but I was aware that one girl supporting a Dark Peak Fell Running top was way ahead of me and had diapered up the sharp rocky ascent of Pindale before I’d even dibbed into the dibber a mile or so in.
Pindale is always a good slog upwards. There is no other way to describe it. With around 15 more miles ahead of me I knew I could afford to make the most of it and make it ‘runnable’ even at this early stage. I picked my way through the rocky terrain. Did I say it is up no doubt. Up I said. There were a mixture of guys around me, as I tripped, a tall DPFR asked if I was ok, he looked like a proper fell runner, tall and lean. Expect no better from a DPFR vest.
As the track levelled out onto the limestone way the intensity of the sun blasting down was taking its toll on everyone. The beauty of the Peak District glistened all around. I grinned within myself whilst smiling with my feet. I was running again, running happy, running happy in the Peaks, where I belong. What a perfect way to spend a Saturday morning.
Today hearts conquer hills
Next up was down, the downhill technical section through Cave Dale. After a reccie of the course last week where it took me longer to get down this section than it did to climb the following hill, I was nervous about slipping and about the rest of the pack coming hurtling down after me. But something clicked in my head, something that I practiced last week on my reccie – glancing ahead then back towards me ‘scanning’ the path ahead and not just looking timidly beneath my feet. I was trying to let go more, relax into the downward hill and allow gravity safety take me to Castleton. I actually felt like I was running downhill for once. It was still slippery but not as bad as it was the previous week. At times walking was necessary, slowly picking my way down the slippery rocks but I did overtake one guy who was doing a ‘steady me’ and not ‘risking any broken bones’ either. For once I actually found that section quite refreshing. My chosen shoe; the odd looking Raidlight dual toe, worked wonders. I love these shoes, wide, gripped up and comfortable. They have currently replaced my off-road Hokas, though saying that I would like to try out the Hoka Speedgoat when I have some pennies as that vibrant sole looks promising. I was already a little hot in my toe’y compression socks, they are not quite as elastic as I would like and I could do with some more stretchy toe’y compression socks for summer running. Ok that’s enough kit chat for now. Everything else was working well.
Discover the world under your feet
Into Castleton, at the first water/food Checkpoint I guzzled down plenty of water and went on my way. No need for jelly babies or cookies yet, only 4 or 5 miles in. Up through Castleton I followed the route and the guys around me.
The road up to Hollins Cross is always an incremental slog. The Half route veered off to the right diagonal to the mammoth ‘Back Tor’ climb. This was a good opportunity to get some energy down me as I took on some chunks of white and brown Kendal mint cake, pure sugar at its best. I felt I was running well up the hill, overtaking a couple of guys, always my stronger point up those hills. Like a proper Yorkshire lass.
Back Tor – an impossibility to run up, but get easier every time. I hurtled my way up the steep Stoney steps to the top where the ridgeway opened up for a mile or so up to the luxurious Lose Hill. I love this hill, the hills were a live with the sound of runners.
Go fast enough to get there but slow enough to see
Lose hill summit was busy with day walkers cheering us all on. As I descended into Hope I was inscrutably grinning, A year or so a go I would have been grin and bearing it, find myself slowly picking my way down the flagstones. Yet today I felt myself almost free falling, actually ‘running’ and no one over took me – result!
‘Second Lady’ shouted the Sports Sunday photographer as I hurtled over the two stiles. I was smiling, I was laughing within, I was having fun. I was on my own running down this incredible hill, enjoying every single step. The day walkers cheering me on – or thinking what a crazy thing to do?
A guy caught me up through the many gates towards hope, having a little chat before allowing him to go on his way, being the faster runner.
The next checkpoint just before Hope cemetery gave me hope as I took on a cup of orange juice, a cup of water and filled up my bottles. With a handful of jelly babies I went on my way. I didn’t feel dead enough to visit the cemetery just yet, in fact I felt quite good. The intense heat was still making for gruellingly gasping running conditions but I loved it really.
Run it releases so much more than sweat
Here there were a couple of choices, the guy in-front of me took the footpath trail where I stuck to the road – did you hear me right? I said I stuck to the road. I knew the road route and was not going to get lost taking a path that would gain me 5 seconds. The guy popped out in-front of me – I lost nothing. Through Aston and up a nettle infused footpath I navigated. The next hill, grassy and sloping upwardds shouted out ‘power walk’ to my legs. Do not under estimate the power of power walking in hilly races. For the guy in front of me (sorry I didn’t get your name) was trot running up the hill and I over took him ‘power walking’. Bearing in mind I am only 5ft 3”. Never under estimate walking.
We had a chat at the top (no time for a cup of tea and a biscuit as there was no checkpoint here) and up through the belowness of Hill. As the path levelled off, I left said bloke and descended down the flank of Winn Hill passing a female photographer who told me I was looking good. Really? But really? I was supporting my Sheffield RC buff, sweating like a pig, as pink as a pig and oinking like a pig, and I was looking good? Can’t wait to see her photos… (not seen that set yet – anyone?)
Be a hill seeker!
Most of us try to avoid hills, but what’s so good about flat?
Think about it: flat tires, flat hair, flat returns and — the ultimate — flatlining!
Life happens on the hills!
There are opportunities to prove to yourself that you’re stronger than you ever imagined.
If you never attempt the ascent, you’ll never know the thrill of swooshing down the other side!
The descent battling through the overgrown bracken was delightful, the ferns waving me on as I brushed past them. Through a little bit of squidgy mud round the woodlands I went as the guy caught me up again and we both went flying down the pathway, dibbing in one after each other at the next dibber point. Through the pine scattering woodlands I followed said bloke to Ladybower reservoir.
Happiness is, a long run on the trails
Thornhill Trail is always like a thorn in my side. It is an easy going trail; flat, mundane and painful for a runner like me. This way through to Bamford always feels like there is a slight incline. Bear in mind I have never run a full flat 6 minute mile, to power on here in a sub 8 minute mile was more than enough for my little body. Three guys were in-front of me running away, so so strong, taking advantage of the flat terrain. I was draining, bonking, bang bang bang as my feet hit the trail one relentless foot after another. It was time to get out that emergency gel. An apple pie Torq gel. I am not keen on gels I prefer natural stuff, fig biscuits, Kendal mint cake and my new experiment of ‘Scottish tablet’ rolled in salt in a small freezer bag. This is delicious and melts in the mouth. The salt helping in the heat of the moment. But sometimes an emergency gel just hits the spot and it was time for some apple pie. Anyone got any custard?
The last checkpoint for the Half Tour was at the carpark on the trail. One of the of the marshals waving the dibber at me as I entered the car park. I took on some orange juice again and another cup of water. A quick refill of my own bottles, sensibly keeping that water topped up and picking up a couple of jelly babies for good luck I was soon back on the trail of doom. The Full Tour left us again here as us half less inclined continued to the end of the Trail to toe ‘Quaker House’
May all your trails be dirt
At the ‘Quaker House’, the three guys were running down the lane having taken a wrong turning. I whistled them back – beckoned them to follow me through the field as they were about to go the very long way around – You are not on the Long (long) Tour guys!. ‘This way’ I called, as I double checked the route myself to doubly ensure I wasn’t leading 3 other guys on a wild goose (or is that cow?) chase. They thanked me for the call out and we all ran together to the main road leading up to Shatton. They would have been shattoned on if they had gone the wrong way. Glad to say that I reccied that bit the previous week.
I must admit that reccieing the course really helped me mentally. Through Shatton I was confident of the route, as I felt myself floating up the lane. It was tough, no doubt but I felt energised at the same time, joyfully elevated. I pictured the rest of the route in my head, visualising myself running happy for the next few miles. Turning that visuality into reality.
Make hay whilst the sun shines.
I had dropped the three guys and was running happy. It is around this stage in any event where I need to learn to appreciate my strengths. Whilst others sometimes find it mentally or physically tough I was energised. One of the guys did catch me up and held the farm gates open for me as we jumped across the rough and bumpy grassy cow pat fields before descending back down to Bradwell.
The final stretch down the private limestone ‘driveway’ was the only section I wasn’t able to reccie but knew I had to turn down the lane rather than go across the stile. Red and white tape subtly draped down from a couple of branches marked my head with extra confidence that I was on the right path. And I was nearly home as I ran harder towards the finish, entering the pavilion area to an array of claps and a final dibber in.
I glanced at my watch for the first time in 2 hrs and 27 minutes to read 2 hours and 27 minutes. I was blown away by the time, no gust of wind in sight but really happy to have got under 2.30 minutes, again only 3 minutes of the course record (held I believe by fellow club member Helen Mort last year). Must be a habit of mine to be 3 minutes off course records?
Simon aka @fellmonkey78 was relaxing on the grass after a superb run to heart rate bagging 7th or 8th place in around 2.15 minutes. The shock of the day came when Simon told me I was first lady. Now how did that happen as I knew the DPFR lady was well ahead of me, she was a much stronger runner. Chit chat had suggested that she had got very lost, and hopefully not fallen in a ditch.
Some 15 minutes later the ‘real’ first female; Zanthe came rolling in, unfortunately for her the wrong way too. I felt for her as she was clearly much stronger and had clocked up 18 miles rather than the 15.4 miles that I had done. I questioned my guilt for placing ‘first female’ but as was pointed out to me part of the game is ‘navigation’ not just who is the strongest runner. I have been there done that myself (Calderdale Hike earlier this year being a prime example of running near on 40 miles instead of 37). So I bagged 1st overall female. I was more overwhelmed with my sub 2.30 time rather than the overall win as I felt though I didn’t fully deserve it. 1st V40 I will accept that – hic goes the bottle of wine, thank you everyone. Once again a picture perfect event.
Position: 1st Female (see above) | 1st Female V40
Overall Position: 12th out of 85 finishers