High Peak 40
The High Peak 40 was planned as my last ultra of 2014 and having had a good year of racing ultra marathons this year I wanted to give it my best shot. I had recovered from a Posterior Tibialias Tendon injury at the end of the August which resulted in 5 days of rest and I had been increasing my speed in training with the aim to get as close to Duncan Harris’s course record.
Things went very wrong on the Friday the day before the event, as on my run home from work via the train station I slipped on a wet grassy bank crashing down hard on my right glute i.e. bum! It was a full on comedy fall and would have guaranteed £250 on You’ve Been Framed. I got up very quickly from the fall as if nothing had happened but it had my glute was very very sore as I struggled to get down the stairs to the train station. The three mile run home from the train station was incredibly painful especially on any descent and sitting was…well let’s say it was not very comfortable.
I decided, and told Jen, that I would probably not start the race with how much pain I was in, especially as Jen was running as well so it would mean a long run back to Buxton if I decided to pull out.
The morning of the ultra was a cloudy misty morning. With my glute taped up with SPORTTAPE I toed the start line, Ian Symington was missing from the line-up, and it was Ken Sutor who took on the early charge through the pavilion gardens. My glute was ok on climbs as we headed out of Buxton but as soon as we descended into the Goyte Valley I was in agony every stride jarred the glute Ken easily pulled away from and kept the pace going easily opening up a large gap of around 2 minutes.
I was running strong on the climbs and along the flat sections of trail but as soon as I hit a bit downhill I was on agony.
Ken kept his lead till the road climb up to Eccles Pike, when I caught him up and I decided to grin and bear it on the next few miles of tarmac, I was then on my own for the rest of the race, trying to keep my average pace under 8 min/mile to get under the course record.
The tarmac miles passed quickly up to Beet Farm checkpoint before a fast blast along the Pennine Bridleway to the base of Rushup Edge. I ran up and along Rushup, past many DofE groups out on their expeditions trying to guess which level they were on depending on the size of their rucksack.
I summited Mam Tor and then began the painful descent into Castleton, I went through half way at Castleton in 2 ½ hours – spot on my planned pace. I knew I couldn’t ease off my pace as I ran up Cave Dale sliding over the wet limestone and grateful for the easier gradient at the top. Once up on Bradwell Moor I was able to pick up the pace down to the next check point. Then followed 3 miles of downhill tarmac through Tideswell, my pace quickened on the downhill and then cramp hit my left leg as it obviously disliked the 6:15min/mile I was running. My leg cramped up again going through Litton Mill before getting to the checkpoint at Monsal Dale. I had covered 30 miles in 3hrs 50mins. I was confident that I could run the last 10 miles in under 1hr 30mins until I got into Deep Dale, which was covered in a thin layer of slippery sticky mud brought on by the previous day’s rain, where my pace slowed.
As I ran into Chelmorton after 3 miles of tarmac I thought I was off course record pace and so eased off the pace. My legs were cramping up as climbed over the stiles and on the climb up the steep ravine of the second Cave Dale. The mosaic of fields passed by quickly as I cautiously ran past several herds of cows who had positioned themselves on the footpath.
It was only when I got the viaduct as I got into Buxton in 5hrs 15mins that I thought the course record could be on. I increased my pace on tired legs, trying to run up the road into Buxton as fast as I could, my legs screamed at me up the steep climb and it took a few 100 metres for them to return. I kept looking at my watch as I ran across towards the finish but my legs just wouldn’t move as quick as I wanted them too!
I crossed the finish in 5:20.45, 30 seconds off the course record! Had I not slowed down at Chelmorton or if I hadn’t injured my glute I’m sure I would have broken it.
Ken finished 2nd in 5:32 and first lady was Kate Whitfield in 6:58.
A big thank you to all the really helpful and cheerful marshals at all the checkpoints and their enthusiasm really added to making the High Peak 40 a superb event.
Photos courtesy of Sheila Bradley from Buxton AC