Ok its not the first day of Christmas, but as a gift to myself I did East Yorkshires own LDWA challenge, Rudolph's Romp. Having done this last year I know its a decpetive course, giving you a few teasing climbs at the start, then mile upon mile of flatter stuff, followed by longer steady climbs beyond halfway and razor sharp littel climbs mixed in beyond the 20m mark. One might almost call it cruel. I'm sure if it were a half marathon the speedy, race-winning, PB-hunting, talented type would avoid it. Or do it once and moan about the hills at the end when they missed there target time by 5 minutes.
I digress - anyway it was a sunny and rather pleasent, calm December morning. Which was just one ingreadient in making my day. Having done a few hilly LDWA events of late I feel I'm mostly recovered from the Atlantic Coast challenge / Snowdonia marathon tag-team so I stuck to my plan to try and crack 4 hours today. Looking at last years 4.27 this may seem ambitious, but last year I don't think I was 100%, suffering from 12m which I rarely do in a longer event these days. Also, the aforementioned weather this year, it was pretty muddy in places, but I think this is preferable to last years colder conditions which meant ice in places (especially roads) and ice covered snow remnants which can be dangerous. I also knew the route this time.
I was scarily task focused in some ways. I knew it was 24.5m from last year so set the ol' faithful 305 to give me lap splits at 6m intervals. My focus perhaps failed me in other ways, I forgot my pre-mixed energy drink so had to totally rely on CP water or cordial. Nearly worse I dropped my Rombalds plastic mug a few miles in so could have been cupless and I didn't see any plastic cups at CP. Luckily I was on road when it happened so it made a clatter.
Before the start I chatted with the large City of Hull AC crowd assembled for this "unnofficial" club event/day out. I then preceded to get carried away running the first mile or so at about 8min/mile pace as the speed bunny's and racing snakes dragged me along. This starts with a road section to thin the eventers a bit, then the first soon the first short steep climb, I walked this, others around my position didn't, with recent experiance I felt like saying to them "chill out, there's a long way to go" and running on a muddy slope at this angle is barely faster than walking. But, I minded my own business and soon passed these guys again ;¬)
A few climbs and drops later and time for the most prolonged flat section of any LDWA challenge I've done. Not to say its boring though, fields, a food stop, acountry estate, woodland tracks dodging monster puddles and then the welcoming site of a church spire. This is usually the first tell-tale sign of an oncoming village in LDWA challenge-land. As I arrived I saw Chris Brown, who I'd briefly chatted with earlier, leaving the barn CP. I topped up on liquid (as much as I could get in cup), sweet goodies and walked on nibbling and supping.
The challenge now kicked in. The false sense of security was reaping its vengeance all around me. People walking, slowing down, having a breather, this bit got me last year but I wasn't stopping today. The "lumpy" grass/mud path soon gave way to a long and steepening slog up Arras Wold. We turned into the wind along a road briefly and then reentered muddy trails on and off, up and down for a few miles. Including the much appreciated sandwich CP - sandwiches have become my top up food of choice for these things. My pace was good and I was starting to catch people up regularly. My pace had barely dropped in the second half upto 3/4 distance, any difference being down to the hills. Hitting the roads again near the High Hunsley beacon was reassuring, I can never quite figure why this is the highest point in the area as I hadn't seem to gain much height after loosing a lot from about 16m off Arras Wold.
Then came the sting in the tale, dropping into Drewton Wood was briefly quite steep and muddy = hard work. Then followed a long woodland drag before the penultimate section of climb, drop and checkpoint near South Cave. I'd planned around walking this muddy climb but found enough grip and energy to jog most of the way up (without being inefficiently slow). The climb from South Cave takes in a bit of tarmac drive before "Devils staircase", a muddy, rocky, steep climb enclosed by skeletal trees and criss-crossed by there routes. I mostly walked this as the combo of 23 miles in legs, steep incline and rough path made running overly hard work. Back at the top of Mt Airey and then that brief drop before the last climb through pretty (muddy) Woo Dale. Off the last climb I even tried to race in the runners ahead of me along the road into Brantingham village, didn't quite get em ;¬)
I completed a very satisfying, hard-worked performance in a better than expected 3 hours 48. Most people I talked to afterwards seemed pretty happy and had enjoyed the event even if they'd not met an aspirational target. A few tea's and some hot soup later I headed off to relax on a sofa for the rest of the day, very contented. If only the Tigers could have won!