Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Wuthering Hike - 15th March 2014

This is it ... the first ultra of the 2014 Runfurther Series: The 32 mile Wuthering Hike / Haworth Hobble, 4400 feet of climbing and clambering about in the Calderdale Pennines, and a cool windy 8.00am start from the cobbles of the village of Haworth; my first big test of the year.

Much later in the afternoon, however, sitting cramped amongst fellow competitors at the end of my 6th Hike, in the Haworth Primary School, with a scalding cup of tea in front of me and with a spoonful of hot vegetables and a crusty chunk of bread poised in mid air I froze stock still.

"The winner with a time of 4:04, Kim Collison from Borrowdale!".

Amongst a ripple of applause through the hall and warm murmurs of both appreciation and approbation, the athlete collected his booty and returned from the prize desk. "Second place ..." said Brett but there was an inevitability amongst the names ... Adam Perry, followed by Ian Symmington, now sporting the red and white hooped vest of Calder Valley and the last name I heard ... Kevin Perry in the M50 category - and my category - with a time of 4.44. How can this be? what relevance have I to this group of key players in the discipline? how can they run so quickly? ... yes, I'll go and get mi coat.

Pah! makes my 6.27 look ... well, ya know.

However, I finished and in one piece too, enjoyed it all immensely as usual and it all started so well, with the annual chance for a breather in the very orderly queue at Bronte Bridge ...

followed by the equally predictable screamer of a head wind all the way up to Top Withens and beyond, where the snake of runners disappeared.

The not wholly welcome sight of a stone flagged descent at t'other side of th`Heights proved the difference from last year. I previously enjoyed this headlong pell mell down to the reservoir path: A technical challenge at any speed but alas now no more an obstacle and very sadly missed I suspect it will be, by all of us.

On the climb up the path towards Top Withens, I'd received a tap on the shoulder from a business colleague - Lee Wallhead - who surprised me by turning out in these parts, on a training outing for his next event - the Battle of little Migjorn - the Mallorcan triathlon in May. Fit lad is Lee and it would prove a good challenge for me to keep him in view as long as possible - could I beat him to the finish?

Having just had a soaking due to the tide being in at Widdop Reservoir again, I safely packed the camera away and ground out the next few miles.

It took a big effort to keep driving into the wind and my expression didn't change for the next hour or so ...

Until the relative calm of the other side along the Cant Clough reservoir wall ...

and then the well received tail wind sent us back east towards Stoney Lane ...

and the long, long steady winding descent into Calderdale. Nice and muddy at Stiperden Farm ... nothing changes here!.

and the first sighting of Stoodley Pike ...

... where I took this picture of a competitor taking a video recording of Wendy Dodds, in the vanguard of our group, running down the flags.

Just after the steps away from the church, down from the golf course, a competitor had a bad fall and appeared to be at the end of his event? Leg injury / ankle problem ? probable sprain? hopefully not worse ... I have to be at my most attentive during these twists and turns - that could easily have been me. Best Wishes whoever you are and I hope it isn't that serious.

Cant avoid the climb of the grass bank up to the Mankinholes Checkpoint but made it up in one go and was delighted to catch sight of my target once again taking refreshment with Andy and Stef at the checkpoint. Sorry I never said hello Andy, I travelled straight through having called out my number as it was probably my best and only chance of pressing on for a decent time.

A quick hello to Steve Foster on his way down from the Pike with a pair of fine Patterdales - thanks for the encouragement Steve, yes it was a wind helping us up!. It goes without saying here that all our thoughts are with ya Steve for your tougher battle away from the hills ... it will be good to see you back out here with us all. Very best wishes during this, very difficult, time.

My stop for Ibuprofen's in the lee of the hurricane atop the Pike gave Lee his chance to take the lead; one he wouldn't relinquish although I did give it my best shot for the rest of the round. It generally takes about 15 minutes for the pain killers to take effect on mi owd knees and so I had the chance to briefly say hello to Mick Bull - bronchitis had sidelined him this year and well wrapped up he was to brave the elements on a walk up to Lumbutts.

My plan, once through Heptonstall, was to keep a steady pace and run the flats and downs where at all possible and it worked quite well. Back out into the wide open spaces, and with the field well strung out I managed to grind on up to the Top o` the Stairs and then finally the welcome view of Leeshaw Reservoir signalled the end was nigh.

Thoughts trotting back around Penistone Hill and back through the Churchyard into Haworth:

  • A gel every 5 miles meant a much improved fueling strategy and kept the nausea at bay all day
  • Nuun tablets - as ever - kept the cramps at bay
  • Lack of general hill climbing ability kept a sub 6 hour finish at bay.
  • Post electric cardioversion to correct an irregular heartbeat in February, running with the heart rate monitor is a good guide to performance and potential. Also tells me I need to get stronger!.
Incidentally, I never did catch Lee, he managed a creditable 6.22 on his first outing here and pipped me by a full 5 minutes - never in doubt, I'll await him getting into the M50 category for another pop!.

As ever, many thanks to Brett and all the team at KCAC and Runfurther for a lovely day out in them there hills. Hopefully I'll be wheezing around again next year?

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