I've previously been scarred by several short fell races from Howarth Moor area. "The Stoop" being a mud example, like 5m on top of a giant blacky-brown sponge. I also did the Calderdale Hike last year which will be forever memorable for its 37 mile length, near zero degree temperatures in early April, snow and the first time I've ever gone near waist deep in mud. If not for being near two other runners who gave me a hand it might have taken me awhile to get out. Even when its on reasonable path/trail its been fun, last years "Auld Lang Syne" fell race was so cold the mud was mostly frozen, as was my hair by the end.
So the Saturday before last, following a running club night out I was up early somehow and managed to get to Mytholmroyd before the 8am start of "Moors the Merrier". Met up with Mark Dalton before the start, who was earlier and better prepared having not got half wasted the night before or run a 10k race and a speed session 3 and 2 days ago respectively. Quick bit of toast and as much tea as I could drink without burning my throat and we were off. There was an early walk out of the town as we climbed up Daisy bank onto moorland and the first chance to get the feet wet. My energy levels were ok but my stride length was geriatric after a hard few days. I'd soon lost Mark and had to concentrate on staying upright down a tussocky field descent. I then had to concentrate on navigation and after a few near wrong turns I dropped back a bit to a large group who seemed more clued up.
Through the next town and joined up with Mark and a few others in the green valley on pennine bridleway, after they'd took an unscheduled detour. The climb upto and past the ruined mill was pleasent and strange as knew I'd been there before. I'd crossed this little valley during the 2008 Calderdale Hike, convinced by somebody it was a shortcut. Well.... it was but it would have been quicker to run the road route around rather then down steep muddy valley paths and liquid fields. Soon it was CP2 and some food was much appreaciated. It was drizzling a bit again and we were back in the wind so we were soon running to get warmed up. Something went a bit wrong here as our small group couldn't decide where the turn off after 750yards was. We end up vaulting a few barbed wire fences, which probably wasn't in the master plan. Rejoining the road I had a slight trip and front of left shoe seemed to fill with mud. I had a look at the front and there was no split so got on with it.
Past the "Angry Resident" who was either suprisingly passive today or in his loft viewing us through the sight on his rifle waiting for one of us to get too near his petunias or his Merc. I was at the back of a group of 6 and seemed to slow between each gate/style and drop behind. I really had to work hard to keep up on the track approaching the route split. I'd already decided to do the shorter route, the sluggish legs and shoe that didn't feel right had made my mind up. Also, 20+m of this stuff isn't exactly lazy, right?
I said "cya lata" to Mark and all of small group at 26m split and had a brief walk to get the maps and route descrip in order now I was 100% responsible for my own navigation. I really enjoyed this bit, halfway, the promise of a CP ahead and a downhill. Except the downhill wasn't fun as the shoe felt plain wrong. After a steep descent into a stream valley (Clough foot) I stopped to give the offending foot furniture a better examination. Gutted.... there it was sole split from upper along the instep from metatarsal to inside heel. I plodded on enjoying this pleasent section and seeing if I could pilot the ex-roclite home in good enough state not to ruin my foot. Must say this was a lovely little river valley section and the 26milers missed out ;¬)
Other benefit of 21 is that I was already at the next CP in no time and had my pick of sandwiches; cheese and pickle, dripping, beef, and many many more, this event rates highly for its oncourse facilities even in the "À la carte" world of the LDWA challenge event. I clawed up a cheese and pickle, thanked CP staff and walked on up the next hill towards the resovoirs munching away. Nearly everybody I asked went for Cheese and Pickle, must be real good endurance food? or maybe its a nice change from the sweet cakes, etc on offer. Crossed the dam and along side of resovoir, I enjoy my untouched country views but can't help appreciaiting this man-made luxury that we take for granted, especially those who've never been high enough in hills to see where their tapwater comes from.
More climb away from resevoir and I jogged most of it as I was quite happy I had the legs to run most of the way and should take advantage of the rather good paths in this section - it would soon all change. For now though there were some small climbs and descents and then the really steep drop to the Lumb Hole waterfalls. I'd stopped a few times to talk to walkers who were interested in why people kept running past them. I then stopped to get a picture of the waterfall as I was not in a competitive mood. Interested to read the Ted Hughes poem plaque. A couple of runners caught me and I ran with them beyond next CP and up onto the tussocky and pathless moor to follow, none of us were that talkative as were concentrating on staying upright.
I was a bit hacked off with grit in my shoe and my foot slipping around in expanded heel of left shoe I stopped for more pictures near the second air shaft. Results aren't as stunning as view actually was, I need a better camera! Back on my own I was soon aware of two runners coming up behind me fast, they weren't there 5 mins ago and looking at the pace I thought these must be the marathon leaders - they were. I moved over to let them through and thought I was quite privelaged to be overatken my real front runners. Only usually happens to me in handicap races.
I plodded on sedately stopping to take a few more pics and enjoyed the drop downhill into Mytholmroyd. Good spread at the finish and unusually I was one of the earlier arrivals. Suprisingly a guy I'd ran with earlier till he pushed on at the split was in after me, after a detour down to Mytholmroyd. After a nosh and putting some warmer clothes on I caught up with Mark and also met a few new faces, for me, from the off-road circuit. Including Nick Ham, who I'd heard of and enjoyed reading blogs from on many occasions. Lots of people seem to have had a few navigational woes and some took massive detours down to Mytholmroyd. The event was finished off nicely with a beer in a nearby pub
Next up, Dovedale Dipper...... oh and a few road races to keep ticking over.