Saturday 14th November 2015
I was really excited about completing the Tour of Pendle as I had heard so much about it, about how it just gets harder and harder with most of the climbs at the end of the run, how fun the terrain can be and how interesting the navigating could be depending on what the weather was doing. I was also aware that one of my idols, Nicky Spinks!! was running who is an absolutely amazing woman and Rob Hope of Pudsey and Bramley which meant it was going to be a quick race.
“The day of the race looked interesting. The forecast predicted Storm Abigail…”
The day of the race looked interesting. The forecast predicted Storm Abigail. Rain and lots of it, set to be the worst storm in 40 years and to add to that there was the risk of gale force winds hitting 40mph…..great….I couldn’t wait 😳!! Thankfully the forecast was a little over the top and yes there was lots of rain but thankfully the wind didn’t quite get up to 40mph!! This meant the navigating had the potential to be a bit tricky as visibility was likely to be poor and it meant that most of the running would be spent on muddy trails with the odd river crossing and slippy descents!
On arrival to the event in the little village of Barley it was immediately evident how popular it was. The car park was full and the streets were just lined with hundreds of cars. We got parked up and went to register in the little town hall then headed back to start getting ready.
The layering system for this race totally confused me, I had layers on and off then back on again….I just couldn’t decide what to wear. The one thing that was for certain was I was going to try out my new Seal Skin waterproof socks in preparation for the Helvellyn ultra in December. A top tip given to me by Ben Wolstenholme… Tuck them under your leggings otherwise the water will run down and fill them up and you’ll be squishing around for the race!
We set off to the start and all huddled round ready to go. I was still messing around with tops and then my shoes…tightening them up…lossening them again, I don’t know what was wrong with me at the start but I just didn’t feel ready at any point! I think because of this I missed the race briefing….one lesson I learnt after this race LISTEN TO THE BRIEF!!!!!
“I usually end up spending a lot of time on my bum!”
It became very apparent early on that due to the number of runners navigating was probably going to be none existent so I put my map away and enjoyed the run. I started nice and steadily with a gentle incline up to the reservoir before taking a right up to Pendle Hill…I knew we had 17.8miles ahead and the end would be tough…’take it steady’ I told myself. The conditions weren’t too bad either, it was raining but nothing major and I was quite enjoying climbing out of the clag and suddenly being able to see for miles, made it quite exciting as to what was coming next! The hills were hills…they weren’t too bad really what I was struggling with mostly was trying to run through bog as it just sapped your energy from your legs and how I didn’t fall over was beyond me. It was also the downhills that slowed me down…I am a terrible downhill runner and this is something I really need to work on. I usually end up spending a lot of time on my bum!
I was pleasantly surprised too at how many spectators came out in that weather to support the runners. As a fell runner this is something I am really thankful for, it really does mean a lot and when some of them offer you a Jelly baby too….well, I could hug them sometimes!!
After checkpoint 4 we started a steep climb after a river crossing only to see Rob Hope come hurtling towards us in the opposite direction…he was almost finished can you believe! There were mutterings between runners about how ‘that’s not the normal route’ and ‘are we doing the shorter version?’. This was the first moment I heard that we might be doing the shorter route because of the weather conditions but in my head I just thought, they would have told us that at the start of the race and on I plodded.
“I have no other words other than idiot and why on earth did I not listen to that briefing!!!”
We met a few more river crossings and there was more boggy land to run over, pass another reservoir and then off to what I would consider a considerable climb. It was one of those hills you can see coming as your still running downhill and your thinking all the time, great, I’m going to have to get back up that in a minute. I got to the bottom, was handed a jelly baby then head down and plough on. My friend passed me here and declared it was the last climb of the day. It couldn’t be, we had only been going for 12 miles or so, it was all still to come…wasn’t it? I discovered at this point that after check point 6 we would be making our way to the finish and that we had all actually been informed of this at the start! Idiot! I have no other words other than idiot and why on earth did I not listen to that briefing!!!
At the top of the climb I decided I had better start pushing on as I now had ground to make up with less than a couple of miles left to go! I pretty much sprinted to the end as it was really good trail running with rocks, mud and water to negotiate before hitting the tarmac for the last mile in to the finish.
It was an awesome race although I was pretty frustrated with myself for not listening at the start so I got all my pacing wrong and I would have loved to do the actual long route. I guess this simply means I’ll have to sign up again next year!! It was also a race of not eating or drinking anything! I think I was completely distracted by the weather and the trail that I just didn’t feel thirsty at any point and totally neglected to keep myself fuelled. Sometimes I think races like this are there to remind you of why you listen, why you drink and why you eat and give you that gentle nudge to get your act together!!