Monday, 27 August 2012
On the whole... good!
Once back in Blighty and back into the cut and thrust of top competition. Well, ok, I had a go at Darwen Dashers Uphill Challenge. I did the one last year and enjoyed the masochistic element of it. I think I might have come third, last time, behind Russ Owen and Mark France. I felt like I'd improved my fitness since then so I was feeling fairly confident about getting a good result. I think there was only about 10 of us turned up to take part, which was a bit poor. Linda and Jo had gone to a fair bit of trouble to organise it. Unfortunately for me one of the people that did turn up was Mark Walsh. Doh!
The format was - you set off at minute intervals from right down at the bottom end of Sunnyhurst Woods park, at the Hawkshaw Rd entrance. You then pelt along the flat bit towards the bandstand and then turn up towards the Lychgate. Through the gate at the top, left, right and then straight up the most direct route to the Tower and stop at the trig point. Easy , eh... :0/
Mark W had been drawn to start after me and Jonathan S a minute before. My goal was to catch one and not get caught by t'other. My heart was properly boucing off the rev limiter as I passsed Stubbsy just bbefore the Lychgate. Getting out oto the moor I could see a group ahead. Head down and do my best. as I got closer I could see it was Andrew the vicar, Gary Taylor and his son Gareth. Could I catch 'em? The Taylor were engaged in their own little battle and I just managed to draw level with Andrew on the steep little ascent to the Tower. He started to come back at me and I surprised myself by having enough left to sprint ahead. Such a painful challenge! When we got the results later I had been beaten by 'Usain' Walsh by 32 seconds. I knew I'd given it a good go but I felt a bit disappointed that I wasn't closer to him.
Next up - Pilgrim's Cross fell race. The afternoon of the race I'd felt a bit 'off' at work. Not quite sure what was going on but I certainly didn't feel at my best. Persuading myself that I was being soft I turned up for the race and pretended all was well. It's a pretty tough race, this one, and I never seem to have a good run there. I usually manage a decent start as it's a stiff climb up Robin Hoods Well. Not today. I got a bit stuck in traffic on the initial section annd then when I reached open moorland and tried to keep up with Des Reilly I knew that the wheels had fallen off. In the distance I could see Mark W and young Jonathan B enggaged in a good tussle at the sharp end of the race. I wouldn't see them again until the end.
Sheer cussedness kept me going but Des was soon well away from me. I sought another target to keep me distracted and tucked in behind the next person to overtake me. He had a lovely easy running style and seemed to glide over the ground. The jammy git! I became more aware of my laboured lumbering.
As you head towards Peel Tower there is a steep grassy descent. Everybody else charged down it whereas I had to put the brakes on. next thing I went over on my left ankle. Bloody brilliant, I was still struggling with the sore tendon from going over on my right one at Ingleborough. I carried on, but really the towel had been chucked in by then. When, ages and ages later, we reached the final descent back down Robin Hoods Well, I just wasn't in the mood and ended up walking some of the tricky slippy stone sections. I must have lost about 20 places along here but I just didn't care. I held a guy off right at the death but it was pretty much from force of habit than anything else. I got in the car and went home. One to forget.
Darwen Gala fell race is one of my favourites. It's a cracking little course - only 3.7 miles long - but it packs a couple of decent climbs in before the sprint back down through Bold Venture to the finish line. Another thing I like about it is the free beer at the finish! More of that later...
A reasonable turnout of 62 runners lined up at the start. The usual mix of local club runners and young lads thinking 'how hard can it be?' were joined by an almost unnoticed slight looking young girl and her Dad. We set off and the climb up through the park soon took it's toll on the unprepared. Finally we popped out of the trees and onto the moor. As I glanced ahead I could see the young girl. She was leading! Not only leading but putting a distance into the nexy runner. Wow! I got on with my own little world of pain and a bit of a battle with Clayton runner Andy Orr. He's a bit good is Andy but I was pretty close to him at Ingleborough so I thought I'd have a go. We were neck and neck pretty much, up to the Tower but he sprinted off on the steep descent. I knuckled down and was right behind hhim by the time we got to the top of the climb up the 'diagonal'. It had taken it out of me though and I couldn't keep the pressure up. That was pretty much game over for that contest. I knew he'd be a lot quicker than me once we reached the end of the flat bit across the top of the moor and it's then pretty much flat out descending. And so it came to pass... I did try but y'know. I managed to beat Beckie Taylor again. This is becoming a habit. Seeing as she is frequently first Lady in a lot of races this is a bit deal (to me). At the finsih I found out that the young slip of a girl had won by a country mile with her Dad coming in second. She had broken the Ladies record by over 2 minutestoo. Not bad at FIFTEEN! Last year I'd had a decent run at the Gala and actually managed to get a PB! How had I gone on this year? Whilst I was waiting for the results coming out I had a wander round and a good old social with a lot of familiar faces. I was aided and abetted in this pursuit by the complimentary pint of Runners Ruin. I say 'pint', by the time I was weaving home I'd managed to neck 6. Another PB! Oh, and I was 20 seconds faster in the race too. Not a bad day out.
The day after Cath and I went cycling with some bloke called Wiggins. Will won a competition on Twitter for 2 places on the Ride with Brad sportive so we decided to tackle the 62 mile option (the 100 mile was a bit much at 2 days notice). We drove up to Barnoldswick and eventually picked up our numbers and joined the throngs waiting to set off. We'd seen Brad Wiggins set off with the 160km crew earlier although he was just a dot with a yellow helmet on in the distance. Cath was joined by Sue Taylor which I was glad about, whereas I was on my todd. Great! Initially I rode with a largeish group of Scousers but I decided that they were a bit too sedate for my tastes and put the pedal down. A lot of the route was on lanes that were unfamiliar to me but it was very well marked and there were plenty of riders on the course. It's a lovely part of the world and there are some impressive looking houses round there. I dug in a felt comfortable at a fastish pace. After about half and hour or so I became aware that I was pretty much riding at the same speed as a couple of lads on Trek's. Eventually I let on to one of them and we struck up a bit of a conversation as we hammered past everybody. This was more like it. We weren't exactly doing a classic 'though and off' but we were soon working together and all doing our bit on the front.
By the time we reached the first checkpoint I think we'd got an unspoken agreeent that we'd try to stick together for a while. I loaded up on the free gels and bars and topped up my one water bottle. We seemed to stay at the CP for longer than I would have liked but I didn't want to be rude and make the first leaving moves. Soon were were away again. Same format - hammer time!
There were 2 times uphills on the course where you could go for King of the Mountain. I had a bit of a go but wasn't too hopeful - there were a lot of people doing the event and many of them were proper club riders. As we progressed I learned that my 2 new mates were also fell runners, members of Wharfedale Harriers. I got the feeling that they were also a bit good. Talk of being 4th in a major Lakeland race before getting lost in the clag etc. One of the guys was game for hammering up the climbs and I was game for playing too. I generally managed to just finish in front of him but it was a close thing every time. I remember Jeffrey Hill being a particularly tough 'un for both of us. Some of the descents were a bit scary too!
On and on we went and hit the next KOM challenge - Nick o' Pendle. I went for it as I was still feeling pretty good despite us being well into the event by now. I felt like I'd made a good attempt at it but was soon caught over the tops by the other two. Over towards Barley now and soon we could see mighty Pendle Hill. There is a massive '1612' on the side of it as it's the 400th anniversary of the witch trials. I made some very weak gag about the digital clock stopping or something. To be fair I was doing well multi-tasking speech and pedalling by this stage...
The hills started to become a bit relentless towards the end of the course. I love climbs but even I was suffering a bit by now. Thank God I hadn't done the 100 miler, I thought. And, I hope Cath is ok! The baking sunshine that we started the sportive in had been replaced by mizzle. That fine rain that soaks you through. I was glad I had swiped the gels at CP1 as it turned out that we had ridden right through CP2. Doh! We were all getting low on water but we knew that we couldn't have that far to go. I must say that even out in the sticks there were people standing out cheering us on. I know they had come to see 'Sir Bradley' but they certainly gave us all a boost by encouraging us round. Fantastic!
After I while I had lost myself in my own little bubble and was just tapping it out at my own pace and it took me quite a while to realise I'd dropped my mates. I concentrated on not making any stupid mistakes and binning it on the rather dodgy back lanes, with their potholes, gravel and slimey coverings. Unexpectedly I made a turn and was directed into Barnoldswick Cricket Club. Nearly back! I'd lost all track of time now but I was now on the lane that I'd set out on and then turning back into the event grounds. Large crowds cheered as I got in and grinnned for the photographer.
It was when I stopped that I realised how cream crackered I was. It took me a while to get organised enough to pick up finished goody bag and get back to the car to get changed. I met my fell running buddies in the food tent and had the crack with them while we hoovered the rather disappointing free pasta dish. I started cramping up badly while we sat there but that was ok, I'd finished now.
Cath and Sue got in a while later. Cath said it had been tough but I was bloody proud of her for finishing it. I was also quite jealous when it emerged that Brad Wiggins had ridden next to her at one point and let on to her!
A few days later I learned that I was 10th fastest out of the 723 doing the 100km course. 3hr 52 mins 17th on Waddington Fell KOM and 31st on Nick O'Pendle. Cath was 544th in 5:56:11
Big up to Mark McGoldrick and Sam Watson for being great riding companions.