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Houghboy hits ‘the wall’ – stop. Bounces back – stop. End of message.


“This isn’t flying, this is falling with style” – Buzz Lightyear.

Hello everybody.  I just had a really odd weekend.  I ran the Long Tour of Bradwell (LTOB) – 33 miles across the Peaks surrounding the Hope Valley.

The plan:  To stick at level 1 heart rate, and ‘allow myself’ level 2 on the uphills.

Well, what I hadn’t visualised was reaching the second checkpoint and flinging myself from the top step of the stile on the corner of Pindale and Cave Dale (#5 on this guide).  As I attempted a quick ‘up ‘n’ down’ over the drystone wall via the in-built slabs that stuck out either side, my foot slid sideways as I straddled the top step – made entirely out of Limestone (very slippy at the best of times) and I immediately weighed my options…….there weren’t any.

Insert wall here.

Insert wall here.

I fell from the top of the wall – straight into the adjoining wall.  If you look closely, you can see where I caught my face.

My first reaction was one of pure embarrassment.  I’d made a total hash of crossing a simple stile.  One I’d already crossed I don’t know how many times.  Ahh well, I held my hand to my face (like you do) and tried to collect my thoughts.  Then I removed my hand and noticed how very red it was.

I immediately considered the stupidity of having to quit the race after only 3 miles.  All the training.  All the race planning and expectation.  This hadn’t featured into my thinking at all.

Very quickly, I turned and asked the next guy over the wall “does this look bad?”.  He wiped the blood from my eye and explained that it was ‘about this long’ – gesturing between thumb and finger to about half an inch.  I asked if he thought it would require a stitch, to which he replied “don’t think so, I can see your eye closing up though”.  So I took that as a green light to carry on.

Once I was on my way things picked up considerably.  The recces I’d done this year meant I didn’t once use my map and the recently acquired Scott Jurek pack felt so comfy I forgot it was on.  I had one 500ml bottle of water and a chest pocket full of Mini Baby Bell cheeses, with one sachet of High5 4:1 powder.  I munched a cheese every 40mins or so, and drank to thirst, refilling when checkpoints coincided with an empty bottle.

Every checkpoint meant another marshall informing me/asking if I knew I’d cut my face.  Yes I recall something along those lines.  They all offered to help though and I can’t stress enough just how impressed I am with their efforts.  I really should be blogging about helping out at an event some time soon.  It seems the least I should do.

"Wooo - did you know you'd cut your face?"

“Wooo – did you know you’d cut your face?”

Into Edale from Hollins Cross I found myself stalked by one fella who thought it appropriate to tell me his plan was to ‘sit on the shoulder of someone that knows where they’re going’.  Don’t need any of that sort of thing.  Self sufficiency please.  Dropped him on the descent from Kinder.  I mean really!

My Race plan came apart at the seams, as I never saw level 1 again, but remained within level 2 for more or less the entire 33 miles.  I moved at a constant steady jog for hours and hours, with only one or two minor points to concern myself with next time I tackle anything similar.  Firstly, I’d make sure I filled up again in Edale, as I reached Hope very dry mouthed and wishing I’d been able to drink a little over Lose Hill, but soon bounced back to full hydration.  Oddly enough, from Edale onwards the cut on my eye only bled when the heart rate reached level 3, so I kinda knew when to back off thanks to the sudden trickle of blood down my cheek.  Handy.

The slightly more serious error was my food supply being entirely fat based and not very digestible.  Aside from the small amount of salt content, the first two thirds of the race found me running on the equivalent of an empty stomach.  Oh Houghboy…….

By Burbage Bridge then I was feeling a little wrung out, but still coping with the terrain.  Once I grabbed a banana from the marshalls and mixed up the 4:1 drink I was away downhill for a good 20mins.  On the way through Burbage Valley I sipped away at the 4:1 and felt a slight lift.  Into Padley I was at least able to maintain a good trot and covered the ground without much delay.  The desire to walk had been pushed to the back of my mind for the time being.

After Hathersage it was a balancing act.  I knew it was only 5 miles to go (as I announced to Nigel Aston, another runner I’d settled in with since leaving Burbage).  The problem was, as much as I’d like to have blasted the final miles, exploiting the adrenalin rush of nearing the finish, my nausea was telling me to expect some repercussions if I went anywhere near level 3.  I began to walk the ups, despite the shallow gradient – and jogged the flats and downs without fear.  Then I caught sight of Bradwell through the trees.

The thing to work on is still wanting to walk when tired.  I set out expecting to hold my pace as the heart rate inevitably began to drift upward, yet on the day I began to slow down while maintaining the same heart rate throughout.  Faster would have meant a blow up/throw up, but it’s a little disappointing to have reached the final 4-5 miles and still feel like taking my time.

Into Bradwell and what felt like a sprint finish was really just a good jog, but I picked off a couple of runners as I battled along the main road.  People were gathered here and there to clap runners in, which was much appreciated and I turned up at the finish line with a big smile on my face.

I’d managed a time of 6hrs and 29mins (36th position) in what I know was a much healthier field than in 2012 (many more runners appear to have taken part this year).  Having quit last year and this being my first full ultra of 2013, the signs for this year are good.  My training is paying off.  Just need to work out what food I should carry, then remember to eat the damn stuff.

Despite the problems incurred, I had a brilliant day.  The strange thing, having borrowed Deb’s bright pink Inov-8 waterproof – in order to meet the kit list requirements and after running all day with a broken face, all I could think about was ‘at least it didn’t rain!’.

I’m now really excited about the High Peak 40 and what might happen to that result.  Quick note:  Inov-8 Trailroc 245 – my new favourite shoe.  Loving them like you couldn’t imagine.  If you recall my previous piece on ‘transition’ and how the demands of a low drop were too much, well that’s definitely a thing of the past.  Only took a YEAR AND A HALF to get strong!

Before I let you go, it’s well worth checking out fellow Accelerate supported runner – Mr.Stuart Walker’s blog, where he describes the race from an entirely different perspective (well done sir!).  Walker by name…..and that’s about it really.

Harvey Dent.

Harvey Dent.

Many thanks to Nick Ham for the pics.  Nice work.

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