Another big double weekend for me and a mini adventure in the peak district. I met up with Mark - my often partner on these off-roaders this year - just off J1 of the M18 and we piled our camping and running gear into his car. Then it was off towards south Derbyshire/Staffordshire for the Hills and Dales 22m challenge. We followed a melee of country roads to the start pretty much in the middle of nowhere. Cutting it quite fine by the end. At the start just had time to clear the pipes and get my CP tally. Also a pleasent suprise to see Collie Dave at the start, which was fairly local for him. Caught up with Dave properly along the way and I saw the dogfight incident, it was definately instigated by the other dog - a little yappy thing with small dog syndrome, Charlie was very restrained not to give him a good pasting.
It was very boggy underfoot from the off, fairly hilly as you'd expect in the area and a section on the solid High Peak trail. Time seemed to pass quite slowly on this one. Not due to a boring route, but I possibly was already thinking about tomorrows run. This route included some of the challenging bits from Dovedale Dipper of a few weeks earlier, except route didn't head as far south missing the scenic but steep climb in and out of the river valley, and long plod along the bottom dodging walkers and tourists.
Instructions weren't always the best so we deviated from route a few times adding a bit to the 22. Quite tired by end and concious of not emptying the energy stores completely so took it easy on the uber-boggy final 2 miles. Nature of course made it quite slow and took me about 4:46 - I ran 4:41 at flatter and dryer 26m Smugglers Trod last week. As with most LDWA events the usual selection of goodies on route inc. oatcakes and fruit cake. The meal at end was steak pie, chips and mushy peas - A* for food.
So me and Mark stiffly shuffled back to the car and headed north to Bradwell and our campsite for the night. Landed after 3 and got our priorities in order at pitch by getting fold up chairs out and having a bottle of beer. Tent soon followed, then another beer. Next was an explore of town. We found the "lively" pub about 1m away, big screens for the England match and some very enthusiatic (half-cut before start) supporters. After the match headed to nearby pub we'd been recommended for food and I wasn't disapointed with homemade Chicken Madras. Sank a few more beers, after 4 pints and 2 bottles, I was starting to think I'd maybe had too many to run well tomorrow so took a bottle of water to bed with me. Slept well, no strong winds or rain made for a pleasent night.
Lay in till 7 on Sunday, then up for some beans on buttered bread Mark had knocked up, a fine host. Then off to the West of Peak District, Totley, on outskirts of Sheffield for another day of pure, un-diluted, hill-running in the Exterminator - a 16m class A long fell race. Casual start, me and Mark were first to pay and claimed numbers 1 (Mark) and 2 (moi) and the start was 30 mins later than advertised too. We looked at previous year results and agreed with our pre-tired legs that 3:30 would be good going on this course.
Start was 30mins after advertised so a few extra pees in start field required. Finally we were off with one lap of cricket field and then off into the hills guarding the town. I felt very flat before the start but I soon seemed to pick up, ran a decent downhill from first trig and ran most of the long climb that followed - uphill seems to be my strength, my downhilling is average (for a fellrunner). Great course, made more pleasurable by being much dryer than yesterdays route which lay only about 30 miles away. All sorts of views and variations with boulder climbs, twisting descents through heather and some nice solid-trailed hill climbs. Before I knew it I'd knocked out 10 miles.
No major navigational blunders as I nearly always plenty of runners to follow (170+ starters), just occasionally out-foxed by a local who knew a shorcut. Lots of challenging up and down, but also some nice level-ish bits unlike the last A Long fell race I did at Sedbergh which was a different and more savage beast. Also unlike at Sedbergh I could handle the descents here and wasn't on my arse every 2 miles. I was strong on the last moor crosssing taking a few more places and then held position with a Dark Peak fell runner breathing down my neck on final descents, always doing good to hold off a fell club runner on a descent I figure. One last victory lap of the Cricket field and I crossed the line.
I probably wouldn't be lieing if I said that all things considered this was my best race ever off-road. The only way I could have been faster would have been not to run nearly 23 miles the previous day I guess. I was well happy with my time - 2:54 for about 16.5m - and unlike with a hard-earned, but painful, 10k PB I had enjoyed some scenery, a great variety of challenge and felt I had just enjoyed the race. Finished 60th out of the near 180 runners, well inside the top half which isn't easy to crack into when your up against guys and girls who train on this terrain day-in, day-out. I could feel myself smiling as I ran those last few miles. Only 42 mins behind winner which I'm happy with too.
Mark and I had a quick beer at the pub conveniently across the cricket field to end a cracking active weekend. Good running, enjoyed a few beers and plenty of grub and found a great race to have another crack at next year.