Unfortunately my last minute decision to thrash myself half to death at Blackpool last week made this sensible and reasoned decision a bit less sensible.
The Hike is pretty much that, with separate categories for walkers and runners on the 26 and 40 mile routes, and no fixed course, just checkpoints you have to hit in order, however you want to go about it. I was a bit apprehensive about that, especially as the gpx versions of the “suggested route” on the website were all broken or mis-linked. But I spent a bit of time checking over and marking up my maps beforehand, and had a reasonable sense of where I was going, and was prepared to run a bit extra. After a tough three weeks with two PBs and a win, I was really looking forward to a nice pressure-free plod about in the hills.
We all gathered at the Cricket Club in Sowerby for a kit check, which was pretty full on. They checked everybody and punched your checkpoint card to prove it, which I haven’t seen very often. It was a pretty full on kit list too – mandatory survival bag and everything.
With almost no ado at all, we were basically told to get on our way from the car park, and off we set.
The long and short course runners all set off together, all hitting the first six checkpoints, before the route split at about nine miles. That section was a pretty good fun. I started nice and slowly, but after a mile people started zooming off in all different directions. Every junction on the trail we came to, people went different ways depending on which route they’d recce’d, or whether they preferred short and steep over long and shallow climbs and descents. I was having too much fun to get my map out, so when some guys in front of me peeled off down an insane looking slope, I decided to follow them at least to the next checkpoint, and see how it went from there.
I quickly realised I couldn’t keep up with them, but managed to keep them broadly in sight through Nab End, Erringdon Grange, up over Stoodley Pike, down to Lumbutts, and to where the route split at Cross Stones. It was hilly as hell to that point, but not too rough underfoot, and I was feeling ok. My legs were really heavy from just general tiredness, and I knew I had nothing in me to push the pace with, but I was strong enough to just keep plodding, and pretty happy at that point.
After that it started to get a bit messy. Once I was onto the short route, there weren’t any other runners in sight for me to cheat off of/follow. I wasn’t too bothered, and popped my map out, got my thumb on the spot where I knew I was, and trotted off. Then two bad things happened. First off, my garmin just crapped out. It went completely dead, no life, nothing. I wasn’t using it to navigate as such, but I was kind of relying on it to know how far I’d progressed in between checkpoints, and whether I’d overshot any turns. The second bad thing (at the time) was bumping into two other runners, Julie and Colin. We met up, shared notes on the map of where we were, and then plodded on, sort of together. I say sort of, because they were doing this thing where Julie would run on ahead while Colin walked, then she would walk while he ran and caught her up. It was a bit weird running sort of with both of them, but not really with either of them. The bad thing though, was that although I had a vague sense of where I was going and was happy with that, Colin kept stopping me to get me to check the map because he was sure we were going wrong (when we weren’t), then insisting we were on track (when we weren’t), and then saying “I knew it was this way” after we’d found our way back onto the right track (which he obviously didn’t otherwise he wouldn’t have led us the wrong way).
It really reinforced for me how I need to get more confident with my navigating. I’m ok at it, and when I’m on my own I rarely get lost, but because I lack a bit of confidence I always end up getting talked out of going the right way by people who seem more confident – even when they haven’t got a clue where they are.
Anyway, we blundered along, took a few more wrong turns, and at one point after hacking across a moor we caught sight of some walkers that we’d passed a few miles back which was mildly amusing.
Through New Bridge and Delf End was really lovely, although we nearly missed a checkpoint there and just managed to spot it up the hill through the trees, and then plodded down to Jerusalem Farm and finally the last checkpoint at Luddenden Foot.
I’d had no watch for most of the race, so was a bit surprised when we got back in 5:33. But then when I realised we’d run 3 miles extra, walked at least 3 miles across un-runnable (for me) moorland, and spent quite a bit of time standing around looking at the map, that wasn’t so bad. It was a training run anyway, so the more time on my feet the better, right?
I went into the Cricket Club, handed in my checkpoint punch card thing, and had a nice chat with the lovely ladies in the kitchen who microwaved me a jacket potato as they weren’t quite ready. The results aren’t out, but I think I came somewhere around 10th of the short course runners. And I beat all of the jacket potatoes.