Friday, 16 April 2010

An ultra-runner - again!

Calderdale Hike

It’s been quiet on here for a while. Mainly that’s because it’s been quiet on the running front for me. Constant pain from the knees acts as a powerful disincentive for training. Couple it with the dark winter weather and the feeling every time I ran that I had been hit by a truck and you get a picture of a more sedentary life. Besides which, Lynn has been feeling mellower about running and racing. As I said to a few people – the fire used to burn bright from within, now it is a glowing log on the grate – something to warm my toes in front of and toast the odd marshmallow.

Four weeks ago I took the runfurther banners to Wuthering and spent a little time snapping some pictures. It was a bitterly cold day but the enjoyment on everyone’s faces was evident and I got the chance to reminisce a little about some classics like the Fellsman and the Scottish Islands Peaks race.

The day left me chomping at the bit to run a little myself so early on the Sunday morning I decided to head out of the door and trot around the Macclesfield Harriers club handicap route. Hallelujah – the knees didn’t hurt, I heard skylarks, found 20p on the trail and generally felt more alive than I had done for weeks. Somehow I had forgotten how life affirming running over the hills can be.

With all my layers of excuses peeled away it seemed only reasonable to run again on the Monday – lunchtime – and once again it was great. Well, carpe diem has long been my motto so before the day was out, entries for the Calderdale (36 miles) and Fellsman (61 miles) were in the post. In fact my entry for the Fellsman was well timed as the event has filled for the first time in many years and the organizers have had to turn dozens away.

Serendipity so often plays a part in proceedings and so it was an unexpected but delightful surprise when, the very next day, I received an email from Ian Loffhagen explaining that we wanted to put team in for the Scottish Islands race once more and asking if I would run. Wow!! This is a real honour, whilst I expect that sailors don’t slow much with age I am sure runners do but Ian seemed content that I find a suitable partner and there is no better man than Alex – “Woo Ha Ram It” team cyclist extraordinaire and my running partner from our last successful entry into this race back in 2004. I love it when a plan comes together!!

So, with the training upped from around 10 miles/week (I’m serious) to 50-55miles/week what could I do with the Calderdale? A week before the race I gave myself a stiff talking to and set off from home in sleet to drive to Sowerby and run the course. I was lucky, it stayed dry whilst I was out and I persevered to do the whole course. It took over 7 hours though and felt hard. Maybe 6 hours would be a good target for race day. Saturday went well; despite being aware of the dangers of setting off too fast (based on running memory rather than running capability) I hung with the leading group and was in 4th at halfway. It seemed obvious that Jon Morgan was running well within himself – able to catch up to the lead at will and looking relaxed. Simon Bourne was breathing hard as he passed me though and I sensed that Martin Beale was working hard to open a lead from the front in the hope that he could then use his superior route knowledge to slip away. Maybe 22 years of racing and running long has given me a keen eye for the weak deer in the pack because, sure enough, I reeled Simon in on the climb up to Thieveley Pike and then overhauled Martin on the short rough section skirting below Trough Edge End on Inchfield Moor where the heat of the day was making itself felt more than a little.

Jon was always going to be way too strong for me but I was delighted and surprised with 2nd place and with a finish time of 5 hours 31. Of course a few things hurt afterwards but it’s a massive motivator and I am now 100% certain to overcook it at Fellsman. Keep checking back for more progress updates to the big blow-up on May 8th!!

1 comment:

discostu said...

great comeback. I'm a friend of Nick Ham and so started following your blog as a result. running the fellsman for the first time this year - can't wait! promises to be quite special i expect. disco stu