Oops. Did somebody say 45mins? Wildly inaccurate as it turns out. “Mr. 45!” was the greeting from Nick, having read my naive boast, and rightly so. After a brief warm up with Tom from the store, I took up my start position just behind what I assumed would be the very cream of the crop, but forward enough to actually start soon after we got the go.
Steadily, I set off and turned toward the brook, scampering across the rocks and boulders with a grin on my face, accompanied by Nick, who was to appear several times throughout the run, just to taunt me. We began to climb once we’d cleared the stream, and this is where it dawned on me that it was going to be quite taxing. Quite taxing indeed. The soggy, boggy ground was like thousands of hands grabbing at my feet to slow me down, and the pace, as expected, wasn’t letting up. We turned left, back toward the main road, and we filtered along the first single file section of the race. I’d left Nick behind minutes earlier, but there he was in my peripheral vision, overtaking several of us as he went. I assumed that was the last I would see of him, but as I began the climb through the woods up to Mother Cap (after having to re-tie my shoe lace!!), I passed him just before joining many others in a spot of fast walking.
At this point I was beginning to understand what seperates the best from the rest. It’s just too hard to keep going at such steep angles of ascent. My lungs were flat out, my stomach tense from trying so hard while breathing so heavy. When we levelled out I found it was still fun, and there were great views on the way to Higger Tor. The legs felt strong, and my breath was returning. All that changed once we reached Higger, and I was walking once again. Over the top, and down the ‘Plummet’, which I found amusing, as I passed a couple of runners taking it more carefully.
Debs greeted me as I emerged from the woods, attempting to guide me along the best line to take, but I was far too busy staring at my feet to realise what she was talking about, and so I sloshed through the stream at the base of the hill, only to have to cross again moments later in order to follow it back up toward Burbage Bridge.
Finally, at this stage I could feel my heart, lungs, and legs returning from the brink. I reached the top of the North Edge, and ‘as if by magic’ Nick popped up alongside like the shopkeeper from Mr. Ben.
After a brief chat about the race so far, and how Nick doesn’t have the road runner’s legs for a sprint finish, he stepped up his pace and left me behind. Powerless to catch him, I maintained a steady run to the finish line, and enjoyed the last section all the same. My finish time last night was 55mins, and I can tell now how silly it was to assume I’d be anywhere near my usual road running pace.
Everyone seemed to be running at their fastest from the off, and hanging on for dear life until the finish line, which means, for an Ultra distance enthusiast the pace was definitely hectic, but served as excellent ‘speed work’. The ups are slow, and the downs a load of fun, though there’s always a chance you’ll take a fall and injur yourself. If I was fitter, I’d be able to speed up a bit more on the flats. I now have a lot of training to do if I’m to increase my speed over uneven ground, and core strength will be a factor. Studying the route wouldn’t hurt either, as a better line might shave a few seconds here and there. Tired, but satisfied, I would definitely do it again. Just as well, since I’m doing Castleton on 8th June.
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