High Peak Marathon - Carb (over)loading and Jagerbombs

OK, so the High Peak Marathon is not a marathon. It's actually a 42 mile-ish race across the Peak District for teams of four, and it starts in the middle of the night. It's a bit of a classic though and a favourite race of Sir Ranulph Fiennes! This year I was racing with a Dark Peak Fell Runners team comprising me, Simon Patton, Dave Taylor and John Hunt.

My preparations this year didn't feel very good. I was training reasonably well up till a couple of weeks ago, just before the Skimo races I talked about in my last post. As I wrote, the races were unfortunately both cancelled so I ended up not doing much in the way of training or running that weekend. This made me feel like I needed to train harder last week, so particularly my Monday run was at relatively high intensity.

Over the last week or so my legs have been feeling pretty sore and heavy, but I put this down to the regular training and assumed that with a day or three of recovery before the HPM they would be OK. As usual before a race, from Wednesday my training intensity dropped and I began carbohydrate loading, particularly on Friday.

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We set off at 11:44, with seven teams still waiting to start. We were hoping for a good run, Simon and Dave were to be our ace navigators and know the area really well, and all four of us are running pretty well. However, we knew that there were a few really good teams still waiting to start: Flipper's Gang (Swatts, Spyke, Jon Morgan and Matt Giles), Bog Standard (Birkinshaw, Gibbs, Hugh Aggleton and Jim Mann), Haggis on Tour (a fast-looking Carnethy team) and 3 Blind Mice and a Farmer's Wife (Nicky Spinks' team).

Top few teams on the start list...
We hoped for a top three place, and when we heard at the start that Bog Standard would not be starting we were slightly relieved as they sounded very fast! It was a shame that we wouldn't see a battle between them and Flipper's Gang though. Anyway, it felt good to be underway as we trotted out from Edale village hall and up to Hollins Cross. The first couple of hours had us up and down Win Hill, Lose Hill and Stanage Edge, then on to the first major checkpoint at Moscar. I should say thanks at this point to the checkpoint staff (and organisers) who were brilliant throughout the event! The fancy dress and middle-of-the-night enthusiasm were as impressive as ever.

The route
It was an amazingly clear night and the stars were impressive as we ran up from Cutthroat Bridge to Derwent Moor, Lost Lad and on to the hard section from there up to Bleaklow. Thanks to Dave and Simon's navigation we had a good run, though after feeling good for the first few hours I now felt a bit crap. I was struggling with some stomach problems and the legs were still feeling sore. Anyway, we plodded on, fell in a few man-eating bogs, but eventually got ourselves over the worst of the race to reach CP15 at Snake Road top. By now it was just about starting to get light, we had passed a lot of teams, and been passed by a few. The checkpointers told us that there were four teams in front: The leaders 20 mins or so ahead, another team 5 mins ahead, then a couple really close.

Dave and Simon on our recce over Bleaklow
We knew Flipper had passed us on the way up to Stanage, and assumed that the others were Calder Valley, 3 Blind Mice, and Haggis on Tour. On the long section of flagstones after Bleaklow we caught and passed 3 Blind Mice, exchanging a quick hello with them as we did... With renewed vigour we set off after the next team, but never actually saw them through the fog. On the way up Brown Knoll we drifted slightly too far right and ended up losing a minute or two. As we turned left to rectify the error we spotted another team on the path below us... It was 3 Blind Mice again! Their slightly better navigation had allowed them to sneak back past us. We were now close to the end and starting to flag slightly, so they gradually got away. I had recovered from my little low patch in the middle and was running well now so I enjoyed the last section. The sun even came out for a while and we saw Ian Winterburn out for an early run taking some photos (though not at the same time!).

(Pic: Ian Winterburn / EverythingOutdoors)
On Rushup Edge we were close to 3 Blind Mice again and saw Nicky take another member's backpack, they were clearly pushing on! We realised that they had started after us, so were actually four minutes ahead, and to be honest we gave up chasing them. Eventually, we were back at Hollins Cross and descending towards home, through the sh*tty farmyard and onto the road... Up the road and before we knew it we were back in the village hall. It turned out that we had finished 4th, with Flippers Gang first, Carnethy and 3 Blind Mice second and third (very close!) and us fourth, about five minutes behind. The other team in front had started before us so our time of 9:14 was actually quicker than theirs.

(Pic: Ian Winterburn / EverythingOutdoors)
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As ever, the HPM was a great race. I really enjoyed running as a Dark Peak team, and despite being slightly disappointed with our finish position I think we had a good run. There could be more to come from Return of the Dark Side!

I'm not sure about carb loading any more though, I think that eating so much on Friday made me full and definitely contributed to my stomach problems. I really didn't eat that much during the race, so I think next time I run a long race I'll eat normally the day before and see how that affects my stomach. This is what I'd do for a shorter race anyway, and I think it might be a good solution for the stomach "turbulence" I seem to get quite regularly on the longer races.

After a quick bowl of stew and a chat with the other finishers I headed home and recovered by heading out for a friend's birthday dinner. A huge Sri Lankan dinner and a few beers was perfect, though the trip down to the city centre and Jagerbombs perhaps less so!

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