I'd been looking forward to this long Wednesday evening lung burner for a long time, hoping to do it better justice than I did last year. A dry sunny evening brought us perfect conditions, and not too wet underfoot.
Put on by Kinder Mountain Rescue Team and a fundraiser for them, the route takes us from Hayfield up to the top of the lane near Shedyard Farm where we turn left onto the Bullock Smithy Hike route towards the 'Chinley Churn' checkpoint. Before we get there we turn right at New Allotments down to the lane, left down the lane at Throstle Bank then left onto the path up the old quarry workings at Cracken Edge. This is where the burn sets in as we continue to run uphill when we'd give anything for a walking break, but you don't take walking breaks on short races where you don't have to save yourself for later. Climbing over the stiles will provide all the breaks we'll be getting.
Finally we turn left steeply upwards to the top of the escarpment, where Andy Howie is snapping away with his compact. Where are the photos, Andy? We descend the gentler grassy slope behind the escarpment, now on the reverse of the Bullock Smithy Hike route, to New Allotments again where we turn off right onto the long rocky path back down towards Hayfield.
I have been to-ing and fro-ing with other runners, our speeds only marginally different. They overtake me on the easier gradient but then we come to the steep, narrow, rocky descent through the woods and suddenly they are holding me up. I'm stuck behind them unable to see far enough ahead to prepare adequately for my next foot placements. Finally the path widens a little and I'm able to overtake, too slowly for comfort but it's all I dare. I'm barely in control but I'm hoping for the best. My legs are weakened and my reactions slowed by the effort. I'm going faster than I should but I have to open up a gap. I'm just about holding it together; it's getting perilous; I'VE GONE. Suddenly I'm heading for the ground, brand new camera clattering onto the mud and rocks and my right calf muscle switched on hard to a rammage of rock-solid cramp. I writhe and moan as I try to massage it away.
It hasn't switched off when I drag myself up again as those I'd just overtaken catch up and ask if I'm OK. I hobble and limp, expecting to have to drag a useless limb behind me to the finish, but the forced attempt at running switches off the cramp, just leaving the feeling of over-stretched and torn muscle to work through. It's not far back down to the finishing field as I get overtaken one more time. I race down to the line and check my watch. 0:59:04. PB14 of the year, by 7 minutes. I half expected it but not by that much. As for a sub 1-hour finish, I'd never dared to think of such a possibility. Even Ian Winterburn commented that I've got faster. I was 'only' 3:40 behind him. ;-)
I guess I didn't have any of the Lakeland 100 still in my legs.
Here are the pictures. (The camera survived the tumble, thankfully.)