I knew I wasn’t properly recovered, so after picking up my used/recycled race number (eww!), and my weird little chip/dibber, I made my way to the back of the starting pack. The plan was to take a nice leisurely five hour plod round and avail myself of all the aid stations had to offer if the weather held, and maybe speed things up a bit if the weather turned grotty.
The first section of the race was all uphill, and I took it really easy. There were few route markings, especially in the first stages, so I flicked my Garmin on to navigate for me which was cool – not least because it meant I could ignore my pace and distance. I hit the first aid station, had my dibber scanned, and grabbed a jam doughnut which was cool, and plodded on. The scenery was fantastic, although as things went on I was struggling more and more with the terrain. It was pretty knobbly and bobbly across the moors, and some of the trails were a bit rocky. Nothing that would normally concern me, but my legs were starting to tire at around 18 miles, and I rolled my ankle a couple of times which caused me some discomfort for the latter stages.
The hills were hitting people pretty hard, and I stopped and helped one guy with cramp, giving him a salt cap in an attempt to get him moving again, but overall I don’t think there was too much drama on the day.
Although the checkpoint volunteers were great, there was mostly just water and biscuits at most of them, which was a bit of a let-down after the jam doughnut at CP1, but I’d brought some gels and Kendall Mint Cake so I managed to survive – the promise of hot food and cake at the finish spurring me on.
Bimbling along as I was I had a few nice conversations with other runners along the way, mostly with a chap called Rob who’d recently DNF’d at the Lakeland 100 (at 60-odd miles), and we passed each other a good few times along the way which was cool and helped pass the time.
Using the Garmin to navigate had a few benefits, not least the fact that for most of the race I had little idea how quick I was going, or how far there still was to the finish, so when it beeped at me that I’d covered 39km it was a nice surprise, as I was really starting to flag. The hills were pretty relentless, and by this stage it was harder on my quads running down than up.
Then came one of the toughest and weirdest finishes to a race I’ve encountered. The last 800m or so were all uphill, up a long straight cobbled street, back to the school where we’d started – no chance of a sprint finish, but a did my best and there were a bunch of supporters at the top which was really encouraging. Then it was a right turn, with a couple of hundred yards to the school, before turning in and running along the path to the main school hall where we’d registered. Now they’d said something about finishing right at the hall and scanning your dibber in the briefing at the start, but I hadn’t expected it to be right in the doorway of the school. God help anyone who’d been right on a PB, or fighting with any other runners for a place, because the finish “chute” was also the way in and out of the hall for people and spectators, and the finish line was the actual doorway. Maybe they assumed everyone would be too shagged from the last hill to be finishing quickly, but it seemed a bit odd when they could easily have run people past and into the car park.
Then came the most annoying part of the race. Feeling let down by the absence of cake along the way, I was ready to demolish some of Yorkshire’s finest at the finish – except it wasn’t free, you had to make a donation. I’ve no principled objection to that, but my very practical one at the time was that my car, where I’d left my money, was half a mile away down about a million steps, halfway up what was the final hill. There was no way I was dragging my arse down there and back again, not even for cake, so I grabbed my t-shirt (no medal) had my free soup and shuffled off home.
Overall there were some real positives, I got through a really tough run with over 3,200ft of ascent only 3 weeks since my last 100 miler - t took me 8 weeks to get back to that level after SDW100 last year. Although I felt tired at points, it never got really bad, and the scenery along the route was fantastic. In the end I finished in 101st (out of about 170) in 4:53 which I’m happy enough with. The organisation was good, just a few personal preferences that weren’t there for me in that I’d prefer a medal to a t-shirt, and knowing I needed money for the cakes would have improved my mood at the finish immeasurably. And that finish was a bit sucky.