Back in the DPFR

First some other stuff, then the Dark Peaks 30 Ultra...

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Part 1: Other stuff.

We arrived back from France about a month ago now, and via a weekend in Wales (including a fun run up and around Sugarloaf Mountain) spent the next fortnight with family in Herefordshire. After the Portes du Soleil, the Wye valley was a bit of a shock - undoubtedly beautiful, but very FLAT.

Out early one morning - Bridge over the river Wye
After a couple of weeks down there we moved another step closer to a final return to Sheffield, and we're now living in the village of Litton in the "White" side of the Peak District (i.e. the Limestone side, rather than the Gritstone of the Dark Peak). Returning to the Peak District has reminded me how much I do love it, and after recent events has made me feel even more proud than usual to be a member of Dark Peak Fell Runners. The club has had an incredible 40th anniversary year, with achievements like Nicky's double Bob Graham round added to recently by Rhys Findlay-Robinson becoming British Champion, and DPFR teams including the man himself winning both the Hodgson and FRA relays.

Rhys is a good friend and to see him achieve this is fantastic. He's not the biggest fan of blogs so I doubt he'll see this, but he is one of the nicest people you could hope to meet, a gentleman and obviously not a bad runner. Having known him for a while I also have the advantage of not thinking of him as the super-elite British champion RFR, but the slightly worse for wear student, out for a round of golf in Sheffield, for example...

Athletic prowess has no boundaries
The first effect of returning to the Peak district was that I wanted to get straight out and run up my favourite hills. After a trip to Accelerate for a catch up with coach Stu Hale and some badly needed new shoes from Scott (including the lovely RCs) I was raring to go and have spent a great few weeks re-exploring the White and Dark areas. Being unemployed (let's go for "between jobs") certainly helped, and I've concluded that as much as I like the Limestone side of things, you can't beat the grit and peat of the Dark Peak.

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Part 2: The Dark Peaks 30 Ultra.

By this weekend I was ready for a race. Which was fortunate, as I'd signed up to run the new Peakrunner Dark Peaks 30 Ultra. The route looked awesome: From Edale to Rushup Edge, then Mam Tor, Hollins Cross, Back Tor and Lose Hill, down through the Hope Valley and back up to Win Hill, then around Stanage to Moscar, along the edge of Ladybower and back up Win Hill before a final climb up the edge of Kinder and a final drop back into Edale. 30 miles and 2500m ascent. Perfect!

A relatively small field gathered outside Edale village hall ready for the 9am start. Race organiser David Riley led us out onto the road and without much faff we were off...

Gathering for the start
It felt great to be running and racing again (the first time since the Trail du Bellevue) and there were soon four of us up at the front: Matty Brennen, a guy called Matthew who had spent the summer in Chamonix, and Pete Watson. Pete and myself pulled out a little gap on the first climb, with Matty and Matthew together not far behind. I was really enjoying being out, the fog that had covered the summits first thing was lifting but by the time I reached the top of Rushup Edge I was in it and lost sight of Pete behind me. Running was fun, I was having a great day and though working hard (I averaged 164bpm for the race) I felt nice and relaxed.

After the descent of Rushup Edge and a slight detour around the wrong path I was climbing Mam Tor. I kept running all the way up and pressed on along the flagstones towards Hollins Cross, where I knew Lorna would be waiting. I was a bit jealous of the apple she was eating but decided not to nick it, settling for a quick high five.

Having a lovely time approaching Hollins Cross
There were plenty of people out on the hills and lots of friendly encouragement which was great. As I climbed Lose Hill I glanced behind me and was surprised not to see anyone. Before the race it was Matty Brennen I'd thought would be the man to beat, with a few other names like Steven Lord to also keep an eye on. I hadn't expected to be out on my own, and certainly not this early, but I still felt great and decided just to keep enjoying myself! The sun peaked through the clouds as I descended Lose Hill and couldn't help doing an arms-out aeroplane zig zag as I descended, enjoying being back in the beautiful Peak District (did I mention I like it here?).

The descent from Lose Hill took us down into Hope, through Twitchill Farm, where unfortunately some of David's signs had been moved*, and then soon to the middle of the figure-of-8 on the race map and up the ever-horrible climb up the drive then the steep fields to the top of Win Hill. I nipped up to touch the trig then set off down the steep descent of Parkin Clough. I always find this a challenging descent but this time I was not quick. It was a bit greasy but with brand new Scott RCs on my feet this shouldn't've been a problem... Clearly a type of terrain I need to get used to again! Anyway, at the bottom I reached the feed station. I was here in about 1:45 which was quicker than I had expected, and I think also quicker than the marshals had planned as things were only just getting set up, but this didn't matter as I was well stocked up anyway and just needed to top up my water.

Now began the long drag up onto Stanage Edge. First up the road then the long track diagonally up onto the edge. From the top of the climb and the track back along the edge up to High Neb I could see a long way back down the track. It was now a beautiful day and a good temperature for running. I couldn't see anyone following me up which suggested I had a decent gap, but with a long way still to go I needed to keep my concentration. I was now heading for the section I was least looking forward to: the flat 3km or so along the edge of Ladybower before the climb back up to Win Hill. I hoped my fortnight of Herefordshire flatness would help me get it over with as soon as possible!

Finally I was running over the dam and heading back towards mud underfoot and climb in front of me. I had another quick stop at the feed station, this time I grabbed a few peanuts and realised that I had hardly drunk anything since I last passed through! I think I actually drank about 600ml over the race, which (as demonstrated by my thick dark orange wee and stomach cramps later on) is probably not enough. Aaaaaaanyway, Parkin Clough. I took a new Mule Bar gel as I climbed which was amazing - a thick gooey Salted Caramel flavour with a toothpaste type top rather than a tear off. It wouldn't be too good on a really hot day but it was perfect at the time and gave me a bit of a boost.

These are a good thing.
I began to feel like it wasn't too far to the end now, I knew all I had left was the long sweep along the ridge above Ladybower to Hope Cross, then a gradual climb up and along the edge of the Kinder Plateau before the final drop down to Edale. I was becoming obsessed with looking behind me whenever I had chance - I had no idea who was behind me, or how far off they were, but I wasn't feeling as fresh as I had done in the first half of the race and was getting worried! After the long drag round to Hope Cross I did feel I was getting there though, and set off up the Crookstone Out Moor climb. With 2000m of ascent in my legs I didn't feel like fresh floaty uphill runner of a few hours earlier anymore, but as I finally passed the Druid Stone and headed for Ringing Roger I began to think I might win. The final descent of the race took us down the zigzags of the Nab, then through the Edale Skyline start field and past the Nag's head pub into the village. Having seen no-one behind me as I dropped off the Nab it looked like I had it and entering the village felt great.

The last run through Edale was painful and as ever felt much longer than it is, but I was really pleased to be first home. I nipped up the few steps into the car park and over to race organiser Amanda's little finishline table... Done! Lorna and Acer were waiting, as was Jen Scotney who had shortened the route a little by turning around at Win Hill.

My time was 4:41, which being the fastest of the inaugural event means it's also a course record! Whether it will stand beyond this time next year I wouldn't like to guess, It's certainly beatable and I'd love to come back and try to reduce it myself. Matty Brennen had caught the others and finished second in 5:14, followed by Steven Lord in 5:19 and Paul in 5:25.

(Trophy: Springfield Quarry. Volvo: Runner's own)
For a first time race, the Peakrunner Dark Peaks 30 Ultra was a fantastic event - the organisers were fantastic, the marshals were really friendly and the course marking (apart from the places it had unfortunately been moved) really good. As David says, the route is a bit of a classic! I had a great day, it felt really good to be back racing again and even after wearing shoes straight from the box yet again, my feet are blister free thanks to magic Injinji socks! So big thanks to Scott, Injinji and Beta running, and of course Accelerate.

Here's to the Peak District!

Race on Saturday, Cake on Sunday
Movescount link
Strava link

* - Firstly, if a footpath passes through you're property, you're probably in a lovely place, so be happy. Secondly, I believe races can legally use footpaths without needing to request access, BUT thirdly it is good practice to do so, and David certainly had done. Signs are there to help people stay on the course. Runners do not want to get lost and end up in your living room, so leave the signs up and we can find our way and leave you alone! Equally, organisers must collect signs up after events, and runners MUST NOT LEAVE LITTER!


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