This was the first year this race was run and I was curious to try a new cat-A race an hour’s drive away in the Peak District. On paper it looked a straight forward lollipop-shaped course mainly following the Pennine Way with a modest amount of climbing for the distance. However, the on-paper-easiness belied some energy sapping, constantly changing terrain. It was a beautiful day with stunning September sunshine and perfect running temperature.
The first 3/4 of a mile is a flat, gravelled path. With fresh legs and a healthy tailwind, this felt great as I set off. There’s then a section of fairly steep stone steps that makes up a big chunk of the total elevation. Having reccied part of the route, I tried quite hard up the steps, knowing that what lay ahead of this was 2.5 miles of very narrow paths banked by deep heather and very few passing places. The terrain constantly changes from large shards of angular rocks embedded in the earth to sudden, random peat bogs to loose rocks and shale.
It was tiring physically, but also required total concentration up and down. Having finished the descent, I faced what I found the most difficult part of the race; a flat, unchanging, seemingly interminable 3⁄4 of a mile into a headwind. The 1st man was Ben Light of Buxton AC in 1:02:24. first woman was Imogen Jones of Pennine Fell Runners in 1:16:07. I was 7th woman and first V50 in a very small field in 1:31:52.
Having moaned about all the tricky bits, I’d still recommend this race. It’s easy to get to, it has parking and toilets, stunning views and a goody bag of a mug with a picture of Bleaklow, numerous sweeties and bottled water.
Damn it’s rainy; this mud is thick; it’s blowing a hoolie; my fingers are cold; hope this bearing is right; I’m knackered; woohoo the finish! These were just some of the thoughts that ran through my mind during Trigger – but what a race! I was feeling nervous, but seeing familiar and excited faces at the start calmed me down. The cricket clubhouse was bustling with excited runners ready to get out and hammer some miles into their legs. There are not many people I know that get excited about waking up at 5:20am, catching a bus in the dark, and then running a 25-mile fell race in mid-January. But I guess this is why I love fell running. It’s nice knowing that you are not the only nutter out there.
We lined up at the start just as the sun was rising and as the rain set in nicely. A perfect way to start the day. We set off around the reservoirs and up to the A635. I found myself in a group with fellow NLFR Matt and Uni pal Alec. The slippery flagstones to Black Hill were treacherous underfoot and the wind and rain were beginning to sap away my warmth. Once at the top we hit the first of the nav sections. Thankfully the visibility was good, and I was able to see the line through the heather and into the valley towards Crowden. Alec thought he wasn’t wet enough so went for a little swim in a bog. Maybe he is practicing for a triathlon?
After a very sketchy road crossing that could have ended our race a bit more abruptly than planned, I added my extra layer and munched down some food. The climb up Torside Clough was tough but the views were worth it. Beautiful white cloud rolled over the steep craggy sides. As we left the Pennine Way the path turned into shoe-eating bog. Coming up was the second nav section to Higher Shelf Trig. I was not overly confident about this part. We were now a group of 5 and to my displeasure the two new members to our party didn’t know where they were going either. This meant the tricky nav landed on me… great. Not ideal, but we pushed on. You really must trust your bearing when you can only see about 50 yards and someone you have never met before questions your route choice. But if they want to sponge off you then they must deal with it! We hit the trig a bit further west than planned and picked up the trod. Sadly, this is where I messed up. We reached the end of the trod and rather than cutting south-east and picking up the Pennine Way again, I began following the path west into the wrong valley. Balls. Thankfully, Matt questioned this line and we turned around to make the walk of shame back.
As we hit Snake Top, we began passing the Spine racers, who were ladened with heavy packs. I was glad to only have a few more hours rather than a few more days left. The descent down Within Clough provided a much-needed respite from the wind and rain. By the time we hit checkpoint 6 we had lost Alec and it was just me and Matt. I learnt later that Alec had pulled his groin here and had to walk the rest of the way home. Poor lad, he must have been gutted. I began to bonk along Kinder, and I told Matt not to wait for me any more. I was jealous of the spring still left in his legs.
The blasted cold made my fingers disobey me as I struggled to get out my sweets. Finally, after what felt like an age, I was able to get the much-needed hit of sugar. The sugar must have caused my mind to wander leading to the betrayal of my legs and a subsequent commando roll down Jacob’s Ladder. Luckily this was on soft mud and not the rocky staircase. I took the final section of the Pennine Way from Upper Booth to Edale steady and plodded across the finish line in 4hrs 39mins, only a couple of minutes behind Matt.
After changing into dry warm clothes and a double serving of veggie stew and hot squash we sat in Edale village hall swapping stories from the day with the other nutters.