Trigger (Marsden to Edale) – Race Report

“You’re not a proper fell runner until you’ve done the Trigger” seems to be the word on the… er…. fells.  After focusing pretty much entirely on training for, and recovering from, the Lakeland 100 last year I decided to try something with a little less glamour.  An unmarked route from Marsden to Edale with a number of route choices, and almost certain poor weather, seemed like the ideal option.  At £15 with proceeds going to Woodhead Mountain Rescue, it’s a bargain race and if it meant I’d earn my proper fell-runner’s badge that would be a bonus too!

A gaggle of Glossopdale Harriers bundled into a taxi early Sunday morning to get to race registration at Marsden cricket ground.  It was a pretty smooth affair and without much fanfare we were off along the first section to Black Hill.  It was pretty easy to break the route into manageable sections to keep a bit of mental focus along the way – first, up and over Black Hill to Crowden, then Torside to Shelf Stones and then the final climb up Kinder Scout where you “simply” drop down to Edale to finish. Barely anything really!

I usually like to take things a bit easy early on in a race and push harder later on, but I knew the first section to Crowden would be good for me as there weren’t any particularly challenging climbs and it was largely on paths.  I knew I’d stand my best chance pushing as hard as I could early on and I’d just have to deal with the consequences later (which definitely became a bit of a challenge!)

Glossop Mountain Rescue were manning a Spine checkpoint (that had started the same day at Edale heading north) at Torside and Immy had come along to support the Harriers and handed me a falafel before I began the climb up Torside edge.  This was very much walking territory and I was starting to feel the effects of pushing things early on.  Torside edge and surrounding areas were a bogfest and visibility was poor but I trusted my compass and managed a decent enough line to get to Higher Shelf Stones (checkpoint 2).  Not too long later and some Harriers were out to support by Snake Summit, which was amazing in such horrible weather – at least I was moving whilst they were stood out there significantly exposed and getting cold to support the runners (thanks Tim, Lynne, Chris and Tracey).  I was hitting a low point here so it really helped to see some friendly faces.

By then, I only had one thing in my mind and that was to get to Kinder.  An off-track section was coming up along Withins Clough which was probably the most challenging section of the race for me – generally heather bashing and trying to cross deep groughs with mud everywhere.  I fell over numerous times (and have the bruises to prove it) and narrowly avoided falling down a large well-hidden hole which was at least as deep as me.  Occupational hazard I guess!

There weren’t any aid stations as such, just checkpoints, and whilst I got some small water top-ups, I knew I was running low.  I was starting to get dehydrated as my legs were cramping – on one of my tumbles I looked at my calf and the muscle was visibly writhing under my skin so I knew I needed to do something fast…. so I ate an electrolyte tablet.

Mouth frothing I tried to guzzle some of my limited water supplies and somehow death marched to kinder corner hoping that my body would start working again.  I kept telling myself it would all be ok once I’d climbed Kinder which of course it wasn’t, but at least most of the elevation would be done.

As I continued along the edge, I arrived at the Downfall and a woman on her own emerged from behind a rock with arm-outstretched and said “Sweetie?”.  It’s this kind of support that’s amazing but I did chuckle to myself imagining a pile of drugged-up fell runners behind her rock that she’d enticed with sweeties…

At the final checkpoint (Kinder Low) I knew it was just a matter of pushing along to the end now, so that’s exactly what I did.

I was in no condition to take pictures, so here’s a map of the route instead

Covering a distance of 25 miles, somewhat exhausted I crossed the line in 4:47:58 in 29th out of 169 finishers which was more than good enough for me (Results are HERE).  I didn’t really have much idea how long it would take as the route has changed over the years but I had a notional five hours in my head so was pleased to have got in under that.  Mark Davenport (a fellow Harrier) wasn’t far behind, along with Ian Crutchley after that, so we ate our much needed vegetable stew and made our way to the pub for the proper refreshments!

As a separate note, I’d jumped on the bandwagon of veganuary so had done 12 days of no animal products.  I just wasn’t sure if/how this would affect my running but had been feeling pretty good generally and this diet seemed to see me through.  I can’t really blame the cramping on a lack of meat/dairy!

Down on to the roads now for me with Manchester Marathon coming up in April, hopefully there’ll be less chance of falling down a hole on that one!

 

Men’s Running – (Wo)Man vs Barge

It’s always great to get an article published and this month I have one in Men’s Running – A tale of running over a damp hill in at “(wo)man vs barge” !!

In other news I’ve finally entered another Ultra after a particularly disappointing 2017.  Whilst I’m not fully fit, I have until March to prepare and am keeping things ticking over with as much running/cycling as I can.  The race is Team OA’s – Oldham Way Ultra – a race I unfortunately decided not to do last year whilst training for the Liverpool to Manchester 50 miler.

We’re back in that dark season again, so here’s a picture from a short run I did this week in the dark damp Peak District.  Headtorches out again!

Shelf Stones – Superfortress

I took a trip up to Shelf Stones earlier to the crash site of “Over-Exposed!”, an RB29 Superfortress which crashed on Bleaklow on 3rd November 1948.  Whilst running and “proper” photography don’t really mix, I really wanted a few pictures so took these on my phone and tried a bit of tweaking when I got back.

For any more info on the crash click this link – http://aircrashsites.co.uk/superfortress-44-6199-over-exposed-2/

The total route was around 14km from the centre of Glossop.  I headed up to Old Glossop and took the route up Lightside and over towards Shelf Stones, with the crash site a few hundred metres away but you could easily miss it (unbelievably).  I came back down quite randomly (access land) working my way down to Doctor’s Gate and back to Glossop.  It was a great run with fantastic views from Lightside and Doctors Gate, and of course the wreck itself.

Wendover Woods 50 miler

“Space is big. Really big. You just won’t believe how vastly, hugely, mind-bogglingly big it is. I mean, you may think it’s a long way down the road to the chemist, but that’s just peanuts to space.” Douglas Adams – The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.

You could be accused of being over dramatic if you replaced the word “space” above with “Wendover Woods 50” but for those who did it, at times it felt like it.  But anyway, I’m jumping ahead of myself…..

The wait was over, the training was done, the miles were in the bank and there was no more time for worrying.  The Wendover woods 50 mile race was here and I started brilliantly by stepping out of my car, in a cold field in Tring at 7am, into a giant poo.  Undeterred, I squelched my way to the start line and looked around for the other Project Trail guys.  Soon meeting up with Nic and Jon, we were a mixture of excitement, compression gear and fear.  Glancing around the field I could tell this was for the big boys, with the Centurion Running Grand Slam title at stake some people were going to be flying round this.

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Project Trail 2016: Daniel Stinton, Nic Porter, Jon Gurney

The Wendover Woods 50 is, as the name suggests, “a 50 mile foot race consisting of 5 x 10 mile loops on forest trails, entirely within Wendover Woods”.  Just for fun though, nestled within those beautiful sounding woodland trail laps was 2,900m of climbing.  Which, I can now tell you from experience, is a lot.  The race organisers, Centurion Running, had tactfully named some of the sections; “Hell’s Road”, “The Snake” and “Boulevard of Broken Dreams” presumably to somehow keep the spirits up!

Since winning a place in this race from Men’s Running and their Project Trail feature, the pressure was on.  We’d been featured in the last five issues of the magazine to report on our progress and had training plans devised by Robbie Britton (Team GB Ultrarunner) to get us all ready for the day ahead.  I’d trained hard, and had some great races and running experiences along the way, but nevertheless earlier in the week did have quite a flap about my ability to actually run 50 miles.  By the time race day arrived, I’d decided to put those worries behind me and thought the best tactic was to just get on with it.  I had a proper “plan” for this one; eat as much as I possibly can, drink as much as I possibly can, take it easy at the start and finish strong.

I knew that the first couple of laps just needed ticking off, and the Project Trail guys and I had suggested we start together.  This was great to take it reasonable easy, have a chat, keep the spirits up and get used to the course.  During the start of the third lap I slowly peeled away and realised it was time to go this alone.  The laps consisted of magnificent forest trails, some mud and numerous short(ish) sharp climbs.

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All very happy because we’re going downhill

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I took the opportunity to have 30 seconds rest by pretending I needed to take some photos

Somewhere around the third lap I saw Gary Dalton, an ultrarunner I’d met the previous year at the Adidas Thunder Run.  He was doing a couple of laps in reverse as moral support for the runners and our exchange went something along the lines of……

“Hi Dan, how you feeling?” said the self-confessed moany trail runner.  I gave an honest reply saying that I was feeling pretty good.

“Well why are you walking then!?” came the response.  I processed this for a few moments and came to the conclusion it was a very good question, so run I did.

… and so the day went on, taking each section as it came.  At one point during the “Power Line” segment I emerged into a large open field.  This is a brief pleasant change to the woodland trails and due to the time of day, the sun was coming down bathing the woodland surroundings in a beautiful light.  I actually outstretched my arms and leant my head back, either praying to the Great Running God, or to take in as much vitamin D as I possibly could.  As I crossed the field I bumped into my number-neighbour (284), a young lady who I can see from the results was Rachel Dench.  We had a quick chat and I started wittering on about what a fantastic moment this was and hopefully sharing some of my current positivity.  A short while later, re-entering the woods, we shared some jelly beans and and I was on my way.

In a bizzare mind-game I was actually looking forward to lap four.  Well past the halfway point I’d already decided this was going to be a self-indulgent lap so I put my headphones on some to blast out some of my favourite songs and really started gritting my teeth to get round.  I had a couple of moments of euphoria during this lap as I knew I was well on my way to complete it, and nothing was going to stop me.  I was doing my two favourite things, running in the woods and listening to some crushing metal and hip hop, I had a few moments of dancing and punching the air – sorry to anyone who saw that and thought I’d gone barking mad but in some ways I think I probably had.

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Ten miles to go.  Feeling the burn.

Finally I was at the business end of the race and strapping on a headtorch for the final lap.  This one needed a bit of focus as tiredness was setting in and you really had to concentrate to stay on track through the winding woodland paths, but it has to be said the course markings by Centurion Running were excellent.  I started the lap with a nice chap called Mick and we had a good chat but I soon pushed along and ended up running most of this lap alone. The field had really spread out by now so other humans were few and far between.  After a final push during the viciously steep last 2km, suddenly (well, more accurately, 11 hours, 2 minutes and 15 seconds later) I was over the finish line.  My friend, and top-running buddy Michelle, had come along to the end for moral support and was probably twice as cold as I was, so massive thanks for making an appearance!  Immediately people were thrusting medals, t-shirts and minestrone soup at me, which was a great way to finish.  The whole Project Trail experience has been fantastic, its magnificent to have completed it, but of course I’m slightly sad its over.  Not one to mope, I can now enjoy a little relax and look forward to the ultras I already have booked for next year.  Game on!

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Cold and needing a beer……  I was a bit chilly as well.

A few of the details and stats below for the true running geeks:

I finished in 43rd place with the laps times below:

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I think the main thing I’m pleased with (other than finishing!) is that my laps were reasonably consistent. OK, I slowed down a bit for the fourth lap but then somehow negative split the last one in the dark with a head torch.  Despite the inevitable tiredness I just wanted to get this lap done.

Not that I’m an expert at these things but I definitely learnt a few things during this race and got great advice from Robbie Britton.  Here’s some summary thoughts, a mixture of my own experience and advice given:

  • De-hydration will shut you down.  Drink, drink and drink some more.  I added electrolytes to my pack at every lap when I filled up.
  • Lack of nutrition will shut you down.  Eat, eat and eat some more.  Right from the start.  I really followed points one and two even when I didn’t feel like it, and have to say I felt as energised as could be expected.
  • Stay positive.  People had talked to me about “dark times” on these long ultra runs but I decided I was having none of that.  I tried to stay happy, be positive, talk to people, have a laugh at the aid stations (which were great)and just keeping moving and enjoy each lap.  Its what we’ve been working towards and looking forward to for so long, so why not enjoy it!?
  • Get everything right during training.  I had a definite plan on the type of foods that agree with me and had a load of it with me on this run.  However, I caved in to a ham sandwich on white bread at one of the aid stations that sat uncomfortably somewhere in my digestive system for at least an hour.  Know what you can eat.  And eat it.
  • A more personal one, but I discovered one of the best things about my running is my walking.  I realised I can get a really good march on, even on the steep sections which probably helped me climb from 84th place on lap 1 to 43rd at the end.
  • I’m going to go all Matrix on you, but you have to believe Neo!!!🙂🙂🙂

Finally, a quick shout-out to all the people and gear that have helped me along this; Men’s Running Magazine, Rick Pearson, Isaac Williams, Robbie Britton, TrainAsONE, Centurion Running (the organisation, marshals, aid stations and route markings were brilliant), Michelle Edye for the solid running training and chat, Johnny Fuller (Sporting Therapy), Columbia Montrail, TomTom, Adidas Eyewear, Petzl head torches and High5 nutrition.

And to the other project trail guys, Nic Porter and Jon Gurney (and support and photographs from Chris) – fantastic effort all round and achievement for us all! And of course Vicky Stinton for putting up with my continuous training and talking about running!

 

 

Man vs. Mountain

Really great to get an article in print in Men’s Running magazine (November 2016 issue).  My article on Ratrace’s Man vs. Mountain, an epic jaunt up Snowdon with the Dinorwig activity zone at the end! Hopefully more articles next year!

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