Thursday, 10 May 2012

50 Wold-erful miles


"Welcome to the Wolds"
 Wolds way memories

People I know, particularly runners can probably attest to the fact that I talk about doing the Wolds way in one go last year a lot! It was a real experiance pitching myself against the 79 mile undulating point-to-point Long Distance footpath. Running over a cool, drizzly summer Friday night, into a peaceful raining morning before completing on a cool, but sunny Saturday afternoon. With just a packful of food and drink and no outside assistance (barring a lift home from Filey at the end) it was one of the most fulfilling experiances I've ever had.

With this in mind an entry in the Woldsman 50 event this year seemed well overdue. With a circuit running the flat countryside away from Driffield, into the hills and almost unique Wold-land chalk valleys with trademark steep, short, ascents in and out of the almost symetrical and V-shaped valleys, before returning to Driffield. Another draw was that this would also be my first 50 - I've done 55 miles at Hardmoors a few times and several longer events. Finally there was the lure of LDWA hospitality.

Saturday morning and things didn't start particularly well, perhaps too relaxed with a rare, short 30min drive to the start line of a long event I set off in good time, but then on the edge of Hull remembered I'd left my pre-mixed energy drink, water and recovery drink bottles in the fridge. I'm a bit peeved with myself, but remind myself it's no big issue and even after retuning to collect I step into the hall at the Driffield showground nearly 45 minutes before the start.

A nights dining in Driffield and the Nemesis

After check in I caught up with Mark (Dalton) and Dave (Cremins) who travelled down together to this event and "bunked" in the hall. They filled me in on their interesting night attempting to tap in to Driffield's fine dining scene and finding a high carb feast of Chinese takeaway followed by cakes from tesco.

They'd had a disturbed nights sleep I learnt through the day of one guy who turned up to bunk without a sleeping bag, cover or cushioning and proceeded to almost freeze, his shaking audible to all. There was also a "cougher", who had driven the room mad of course (always one).

But a more mysterious presence was that of "the smoker" at the bunkhouse, recognised by Dave. Stories of whom make me think about the mysterious character from the X-Files. I wouldn't have thought long-distance running and smoking really worked together and this disconcerting mix - according to Dave - had wound up Jon (Steele) and Dave a bit a few weeks previously at the Calderdale Hike. He'd turn up before them at each check point, look all casual having a drag whilst Jon and Dave worked hard to find their way around the new route. I guess he was much aided by good nav choices as Jon and Dave aren't slouches. Though the teenager in me likes to imagine he actually stepped out of a blacked-out limousene a few hundred yards from each CP and trotted up.

Ready for the off

There was then fun and games with event HQ toilets. The blokes had one cubicle and a long queue, the womens had about 5, but were blocked. Thankfully I'd gone "a bit" before leaving home, but still had the feeling I was takiin g something out onto the course with me.

 So it begins


8am and we were off, I got an uneasy feeling (no, not the guts yet) as there were only a few in front of use in the first few hundred yards off the showground. Was I going way too fast? as I was almost involved in the cat and mouse game at the front of 'I'll follow you for a while so I don't have to bother navving as long as possible'.


Sledmere's Eleanor Cross

But as we left the outskirts of Driffield on a good track Dave, Mark and I formed a small second group. The group in front contained speedy Chris Brown, who usually finishes events ahead of us - he's having a bad day or me a good if I'm near or ahead. The others I didn't know and they were soon ahead and a few others caught from behind and ran along with us. Our early pace was fast, faster than 6mph and settled slightly as we reached more undulating ground towards CP2 at Sledmere and many fine momuments and statues - location of the grand Sledmere House stately home. The indoor CP further held us up with a delightful array or food. Mark was barely exaggerating when he said there were weddings with poorer buffets!

On towards the hills and after a steady track descent the first real climb, which took us to a farm with dogs which barked at everybody who went passed, this was even pre-warned on th route-descrip - they must have drove the owners mad that day as maybe 100 woldsman-ers would have passed through in dribs-and-drabs.
One of the early climbs
We must have climbed a bit in the route to here as we had a fairly big drop down towards an outlying eastern tentacle of Thixendale - the village of the dales name sits in a central part of the dale which the extends out in many different directions. A bit about Thixendale here.

But we didn't head into Thixendale yet, but the hills were here to stay for awhile and we started the walk-steep road climb out of Fairy Dale, which the levelled out at the car park for Wharram Percy and CP3.

The Wolds

Climbing Fairy Dale
After snacking at CP3 it was a downhill track to the site of the Medieval village of Wharram Percy. I need to spend some time looking around here one day as I always seem to just "pass through" on runs (this is part of the Wolds Way long distance footpath). We passed the foundations of medieval buildings and the major remaining structure, the roofless church, which has in part existed here since the 12th century. About this time my bowels made it known that I could really do with a pit-stop at Thixendale.

Wharram Percy Medieval church
We then climbed the muddy bank up to Deep dale. It briefly started to rain again as we plodded along the muddy dale top track. It soon stopped, but this didn't make trying hard to maintain a forward momentum on a mud path any more fun. After quite a long section Dave, Mark and I were glad to turn south and cut through another dale before the picturesque descent into pretty Thixendale.

An unexpected pleasure at Thixendale was a choice of hot food! Barely before I'd mixed another bottle of energy drink and changed maps my pasta with spicy sauce was served up. Very nice - Mark and Dave even found room for desert! I was also pleased to make use of the indoor WC to shut my bowel up.


Along plod along the top of Deep dale
 Outside it had started raining quite heavily so it was also time for all to don waterproofs. We took a walk down Thixendale main street and outta town digesting our early lunch and dodging puddles. We were soon off-road again and following a sedate southward bound dale bottom path out of Thixendale.

The heaviest shower of the day was soon over, but I chose to keep my waterpoof smock on and just adjust the zip-neck to regulate heat. It wasn't a warm day and the cold, strengthening wind from the north sea - often channelled through the dales - and frequent showers made the smock very useful as wind and cold protection. Being the kind of day it was I never overheated sufficiently the rest of the day to take off this protective layer.

Irrisistable lamb picture
It was a mostly dale bottom path to the next CP. First Thixendale south and past a large earth sculpture (which couldn't really be appreciated by running past it and must have been designed to be appreciated by Wolds wayers descending into the dale. Then a right branch to Bradeham dale, left branch to Wayrham dale - past an army of molehills - before climbin g to cross the A166 (York to Driffield road). After a climb up Callis wold we had the most fun descent of the day into - another - Deep dale. We then followed, pretty, Deep dale until a brief right turn to the Givendale scout hut, CP5.

Swooping down to Thixendale
The hilliest bit

We briefly retraced our tracks to then leave Givendale via an initially fairly steep plod uphill to then drop into Millington dale. My Grough route made this the toughest section of the route by climb - less than 5m but over 1000ft ascent makes this about as hilly a few miles as you can run in East Yorkshire.


The most fun descent of the day, to Deep Dale.... 2

Through Millington including down the drive of somebodies swanky modern pad before taking a snicket path - am I in Calderdale? - to the big grassy bank which is the other sidewall of the dale. We pretty much walked all of this near 350ft+ in less than 1/4 mile climb. Joining the Wolds way at the top for our second stint along this route.

Much as I like the Way this section is a bit of a head-doer. A slight climb along a field edge before a descent to cross, striking, Sylvan dale with 150ft stepped and on toes climb to bruise the calves a bit. Then follows another gentle rise and fall along a field edge before descending and ascending semi-steeply across a second branch dale from Millington dale. Once this levels out you then rejoin the main dale running on a muddy, narrow path (Huggate Sheepwalk) along the edge of the dale, slightly climbing and today into that wind!

A tough climb from Sylvan dale
I got my head down and decided to run this bit to get it over with - I'm happy enough running into a wind and seem to find it easier than some who seem to switch to walk mode when faced with a headwind. Nevertheless I was glad to reach the end of the dale and exit across a road to a tend picthed to block the wind and the next CP.

All downhill from here...


Grey sky consumes Millington dale

....said somebody at the checkpoint. After a chat and a yoghurt (nice change) it was on again along the Wolds way to roll over the fields above 700ft, often in wind and then drop down to meet a small road north of Huggate where we branched off the Wolds way for the last time today and took a pleasurable gradually descent along Cow dale, before branching left into Rabbit dale for a long stretch of running straight into "that wind". It doesn't look long on the map, but against strengthening resistance, Mark, Dave and I even took it in turn front running peleton style to share the workload and increase efficiency.


Some welcome light on a grey day

This only half worked as I put a fair bit of effort into getting through this wind tunnel quickly and probably went into the red that bit too long. Once we'd climbed out of the dale and along the road into Wetwang I struggled to keep up with Mark and Dave as they bounded down the road to the next CP.

Another good-humoured CP and we had a good laugh about the conditions and a few double-entendres as Mark got a vaseline rub-down on his back where his pack was chaffing. A bit of rice-pudding gave me some energy to go and it was on we go.

"Healing hands" at Wetwang
After a slight climb from Wetwang on road and hard track , there was a Driffield-bound turn and then a very long straight section of trail and track for the best part of the remaining distance, punctuated by a final CP at around 5m. Our pace had slipped a bit from looking like sub-10 earlier in the day, now to likely 10:30. And whilst I could still run my plod speed had dropped a bit below Mark and Dave's on this section.

As we cut through Little driffield in the last few miles I found some pace again and we all had a good run in. Chasing down another two just in front of us to finish joint 8th, 10:35, about one hour behind the first back. Quite happy with that as the wind made things hard work in sections, but with better pacing I probably should have gone under 10 on this course even this day. On the other hand.... a pat on the back, joint 8th of 166th finishers ain't bad.

After a bit of stew to put something back quick, our little group took advantage of quite an early finish for a long event and headed off home. A good soak and a good sleep the order or the evening and awake up refreshed on my birthday the next day, when I lavishly indulged in a breakfast and pub lunch out.

The Woldsman - 28th April 2012 - 10'35" - 50m - 4535 feet asc and desc (90.7 per mile)

4 comments:

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