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If at first you don’t succeed…

Saturday 15th September saw my 5th attempt at the High Peak 40 Mile Challenge, a race that I first did in 2006 as a walker, and finished in last place after 14hrs.  This year I was aiming for another PB, which meant beating 2008’s result and completing it in under 8hrs.  I am happy to say I managed it in 7hrs 46mins.

The High Peak 40 start line assembly

I’d been very lazy since bailing out at 23 miles in 2009, and needed to get ‘back on the horse’ so to speak.  Despite having taken a massive break for the last few years, getting back into shape was as simple as running little and often, listening to what my body was telling me.  Gradually increasing the mileage, and being prepared to stop if it wasn’t working.  Only a few weeks ago I took part in the Long Tour Of Bradwell, and caved at the half way point, unable to eat, nauseous and completely spent.  It was like my legs had simply switched off.  At least it put a few more miles in the bank.

I’ve come to appreciate the need for a slow start, constant crawl and gradual build up as long as there’s anything left in the tank.  This time around I found I kept running for a lot longer, ignoring the temptation to walk, even when the voices in my head did their best.  Can’t say I avoided them completely though, having had the Mazuma Mobile jingle on the brain for at least 10miles, I mean really!!  I enjoyed passing familiar sections/landmarks along the way, and recalling the trouble I’d been in during previous attempts – always a good sign, and a feeling that rewards all the effort.  The kind of feeling that cannot be put into words, but would answer those who ask ‘why’.  Go have a go, and then you’ll KNOW why.

I’ve made changes to what I wear on my feet this year, and experimented with nutrition, but the most significant thing was taking on a variety of routes, on different terrain and upping the distances, without forcing myself too far too soon.  I started Fell racing this year, taking part in the Gritstone Series and the result has been greater fitness/strength.  Road running’s great, but can’t prepare you for the demands of climbing Mam Tor, Rushop Edge and Cave Dale or descending from Hollins Cross, and through Tideswell after 23 miles.

Using a more natural style shoe for the last 6 months has increased my lower leg strength, and improved my form, so much so that I was able to run just a few days later, and actually felt better as a result.  I’ve slowly come to realise what I can and can’t eat while passing the 20-30 mile mark, something that cannot be simulated unfortunately.  For the first time ever I threw up this time around, at the second to last checkpoint.  I’ve no idea whether it was fatigue, or the Cherry Bomb Gel I’d necked minutes earlier, but whatever the reason, I felt better straight after and didn’t hang about to see if it’d happen again.  Bizarre.

My 6mm drop Road Shoes since Feb 2012

One thing that did take a little trial and error was deciding which pack to wear, as I’ve tried bottles, bladders, belts and bags until finally settling upon whatever made the most sense.  This time around I got away with using my OMM 12L – It served me well, but by next time I hope to own an Inov8 Race Pac 8 or similar, eliminating certain problems(see below).

The last thing was my mindset.  I had to approach the race with confidence, even though the longest thing I’d done in maybe two months was 17miles.  I felt strong though, and relatively free from injury(just the usual Tendonitis in my left heel).

I have people to thank – Dan Shrimpton(fifth place overall this year) not only inspired me at the expert panel during this year’s SHAFF, but also gave me a lift to the event, so thanks very much indeed.  Thanks also to Kenny Turner of Dark Peak Fell Runnersfor a lift home, and good company while struggling through the latter half of the course.

Fun at SHAFF 2012

It’s now a case of knuckling down and maintaining an active routine ahead of the Round Rotherham in October, my first stab at 50 miles.  A few 10 milers might again do the trick.  long enough to stay fit and strong, without wearing out just in time for the big day.  From what I’ve seen during my recce, it’ll be a trade off between the additional miles, and reduced ascent.  ‘No excuse to walk’ as they say.  Gulp.

If anyone’s considering an ultra distance run of some kind, I recommend the High Peak 40 as it’s a fairly simple route to follow, with long gradual climbs, rather than steep ascents that destroy you in one swoop.  You’re spoiled by the generous number of well stocked checkpoints, and the atmosphere is very friendly.  Walkers are welcome, and the route provides some amazing views along the way.

For those who wish to know, the following is a list of what I used and why on the 40 miler:

Feet – Smartwool socks for comfort and warmth when wet.  I blistered though, something I haven’t suffered in a long time even in the same pair.  Might have been the wading through a stream early on, when a bunch of us missed a poorly placed arrow.

Feet – Inov8 Roclite 315s.  A toss up between these and my Saucony Peregrines, I felt that the higher heel to toe drop was going to make life easier when I weakened, and though I can’t say for sure that they weren’t partly responsible for my blisters, I enjoyed the bounce on road sections, which must be about 50% of the route.  Might have been a good idea to remove the grit from my shoe about 4 miles in……

Inov8 Roclite 315s. First time in a long time for these.

legs – Skins.  I’ve had enormous trouble with chafing every time I’ve tried this event, not least because I’d worn board shorts!!  This time I played it safe, and enjoyed absolutely no friction whatsoever.  Skins every time.

Top – technical short sleeve tee from New Balance.  Working up a sweat, I knew short sleeves were the order of the day, and the fabric breathes well enough that I remained as cool as possible.  No nipple damage either, so…..BONUS.

Pack – Through process of elimination it was the OMM 12 litre pack this time, and I used a 1L bladder tucked into the slot that holds the foam padding against your back.  It didn’t swing about the way it has done when loose, and I found that the now cylindrical bag stayed between my shoulder blades, so no rubbing across my back and surprising me in the shower with an open sore a mile wide(once is enough).  1 litre was sufficient for sipping between drink stations, though I’ve previously managed without my own drink, as checkpoints are every 3 or 4 miles and spoil you with water/food.

Extras – High5 Gels and Bars.  Great except for the seed based 4:1 Bars which I simply cannot swallow when tired.  High5 Sports Bars on the other hand are tasty and easy to munch no matter what, and they pack a punch.  Perhaps it’s the yogurt coating that helps, but whatever it is IT WORKS.

Fuel of choice.

Last but not least:  Sense of humour – fitted as standard.




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Special Guests who love to run and have something to say. Running, kit and gear, racing and adventures... anything goes, thank goodness!

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