Sunday, July 10, 2016

Great Hucklow Fell Race and Hugging Strangers

For some time it has been a thing in my head that I'll ride to a fell race, run it and ride home.  Kind of an inverted Duathlon that plays to my bike skills and just brilliant for longer distance triathlon training.  I have so far managed it once, at the Trunce in 2012 where I rode there after work from Barnsley station and then rode home.  It was messy and left me with bad memories - particularly after a long day at work.  It took me over an hour to ride the 9 miles home.

Last week at work, the idea dawned on me again.  I considered doing it on Saturday but Saturday didn't turn into a doing anything day.  Friday night I'd rode into town for a meal with TSK and then rode up the hill, chasing tiger, arriving completely pooped at the front door and juggled the TV until we'd watched the TdF.

The recovery stood me in good stead for a bike-run-bike day today and so I started checking race details.  The slightly more convenient early afternoon race had been cancelled due to waterlogged fields and so I had to get my S**t together and go if I was going to make the 11am start at Great Hucklow.  A quick check of Google said it would take me 2 hours to ride to Gt Hucklow and I knew I could beat that, not being an average pleb cyclist - just a bit of a crappy club cyclist.
Phoneix In Retirement, loaded up for an 8:45 start
I threw my fell running kit in my Carradice, changed into bike clothes and wished TSK a good day at his bike polo tourney.  He was still sitting in a chair recovering a little from yesterday's matches and hoping that the competition would at least be hungover whereas he had a nice quiet evening in front of the TV with his wife and Chinese food.

Habit turned me right out of the ginnel - up the hill towards the A57, not down into the bottom of the valley.  No sooner had I realised I was going "the wrong way" I also realised I'd forgotten my sun glasses because at that particular moment, I didn't need them.

I could have gone home, down the hill, got my glasses, got on the right route but I just couldn't be bothered and I just wanted to get on with it.  It was spitting with rain and a cloudy rainbow streaked fuzzily across the head of the valley.  The air was warm it was beautiful.  Screw glasses, screw the bottom of the valley.  I wanted to ride high.  I wanted to ride in the sun.

I toyed with the idea of riding over Redmires.  It was set in my mind immediately.  I usually ride home that way but rarely ride out that way so it would make a nice change.  We've wiggled around the back lanes on my way home a lot recently and I tried to do the same today but somehow just got lost in Ranmoor and found myself going the wrong way down a street I recognised.  It was a bit embarrassing but I wasn't going to waste half an hour trying to get out of bloody Ranmoor so I stuck the Garmin onto navigate and let it figure me out.  As I rode past The Sportsman pub it was still telling me to do a U-turn.  Not quite getting the concept of me wanting to ride out along the tops and not do a U-turn to descend 200 m back into the bottom of a valley that I'd only have to climb out of again.

Finally, it got on message.

I was having a good ride.  There were a lot of newbie couples out riding in their bright clothes, new bikes and hawking on running shoes and plastic toe-clips and I passed them all.  One lady looked over her shoulder at me as I said, "Good Morning" in passing and witheringly said, "Oh, you make it look so EASY!!".  She MADE MY DAY.  I muttered something about having been practising for 25 years and shot off down the descent.

I couldn't be bothered to turn the Satnav off and I'm glad I didn't because it took me down the Ringinglow instead of surprise view or Scotsman's Pack and I forgot what a nice descent that is (probably it's been resurfaced since I last did it). I rolled through Hathersage, worried about the transition field for Sheffield Tri Club's HH event next weekend as the fairground has made rather a mess of it, then hit the climb for Abney in as low a gear as I dared.  I knew this road is closed to cars due to land slides and checked with a couple of club riders passing to make sure it was passable for bikes.  Yes.

I was caught up by two Rutland Cc riders who stopped to chat, asking if I knew Jo Jebb from their Saturday morning rides... ha ha! busted!  Now I know your secret training Mrs Jebbers.

They disappeared on the climb, leaving me to pace myself, my bike lock, shoes and big water stash over the final climb.  10:20am and I was going OK and getting close to the start.

As I descended the closed part of the road I passed a few runners coming up and, worrying I'd missed the start, checked with a marshal that they were just warming up.  Phew!  Can I go down that Byway to get to the start? I asked.  Sure, excellent.  I bounced my slick roadie tyres through the mud and gravel to the bottom and then slithered into the car park below the school to lock my bike to a handy pik-nic table, just in time to catch the organiser saying, "Registration, just walk up the hill to the school and sign on there".  Bugger, just come from there - still, there was no back way in.

I found a handy shipping container to get changed in, pinned my number on and went to stand around, wait for the start and cheer in the frighteningly fast juniors.  I had a chat to some fellow Dark Peakers who are always intrigued by my sudden appearance from nowhere.  My attendance is sporadic at best.  It's always lovely to meet new people though and we talked of races done and whether kids would have liked it and where we have been and what we've been doing that's kept us away from fell races.  A lady called Claire was nice to talk to and we chatted at the start line until the whistle went and we ran through the village briefly then down a steep steep slope where my brakes came off and I whooshed past a few people, including Claire.  "See you in a minute" I said, convinced that she would catch me up on a climb.

I ran past a few people until I realised we were queueing for a bit of a woodland single track.  It was a welcome recovery for a while.  Then things opened up again and we were running through long grass that had been flattened by the runners ahead.  It was a bit hairy although there were no falls.  It turned out to be pretty grippy.

Then a turn into a field and, "Watch the puddle" shouted a lady.  It was up to my knees and I got my shorts wet with the splashing.  Puddle / small pond, same difference.  I climbed up the slope and Claire caught me up.  Ha ha! Said I'd see you again.  We both walked together for a bit but then I started running again and, really, didn't stop and didn't see Claire again.  I felt a bit guilty for this but apparently my fell running has not suffered too much from 2 seasons of mostly road running.

Finally there was a top to the hill.  A jovial chap standing by the trig point sent us down the hill and over the rolling tops of grassy moorland with some beautiful roller-coaster, moss and bog cushioned downhills to follow.  I ran fast to stay ahead of the guy behind me, who cooed that they were beauuuutiful downhills.  I would have agreed but didn't have the breath.  When we hit the uphill, I let him go ahead, relieved I didn't have him breathing down my neck anymore.

We met with a road, at which point two runners who I'd just easily passed, passed me back.  "Is it tarmac all the way back now?" one guy said.  "I hope so, I like tarmac!".  He ran past me looking easy and comfortable.  Git.  I ran as fast as I could to stay with them and it was hurting.  The pair of them easily ran away from me. I checked my watch.  I was running at 8mph.  This is my max speed pretty much!

We turned off the road and finally, we descended into some vales somewhere.  The path had been obliterated by previous runners and had turned into a sideways slick.  I asked the guy behind if he wanted to pass and he just said, "No, I'll let you find all the mistakes first".  We caught up Mr Tarmac lover sliding sideways and swearing in the darkness.  Apparently the course was "ridiculous".  We checked he'd be OK and recommended he takes a trip to Accelerate next week to get some new shoes.  I'm pretty sure he was wearing the Saucony Perigrines that I have (and love but they are pants in the wet mud).

Eventually, even my Salomon Fell kings were screwed as we slithered down a muddy slope that was too slidey for my shoes but my shoes were too good for me to just ski down it.  So I didn't know if I was running or sliding.  They guy who hadn't wanted to pass me had no choice.  He flew past on my left, completely out of control.  He was around 8 inches taller than me so had been struggling to follow my line under some of the lower branches - my intention being to use them to break my fall if I did take a tumble.

Finally we exited the woods to two hill climbs remaining.  It took me a while to recover from that downhill but once I did, I caught up the lanky guy and passed him and another runner or two.  The only guy to pass me was a Penistone runner who I am sure had started late as he was powering past most of the field, all suffering from 8 km already on the trail.  We flipped onto the descent track and I tried to call out to a bunch of ramblers who were taking up the entire footpath.  To be honest though, shouting at them just made them scatter randomly so I ran through the open space in the middle of them.  Unfortunately, they then started calling at each other and scattering about the place like little bundles of chaos.  I dodged them as best I could and left them grumbling at the back of me as I ran away unable to hear the mutterings about what I am "supposed to do".  Who knew there was a rule-book?  Onto the byway I'd rode down on my bike, now covered in mud from the passing runners.  I skidded around a corner, expecting to enter the course from a different direction and checking with another runner I was going the right way.  (Phew).

At the finish line I met Mikk Murray (and his beard) and more Dark Peakers whose names I will one day eventually remember.

I watched Claire run in and gave her a celebratory hug, jibbering that I'd waited for her and everything... yeah, right.  She was happy to be back, as I was.  She said her fitness had gone and I believe she should have been about 6 ladies places and 26 overall places ahead of me.  Me, I was just happy to finish and have enjoyed myself with enough dignity to ride home.

We had a chat and I filled up on flapjack and orange squash - literally filling my bell;y and then my bottle for the ride home.

Successfully changed, with dignity, into my cycling clothes I pondered riding down the hill to ride up the clean road but instead settled for a short push back up the by way with my bike.  I was glad I did because I got to cheer in the last two finishers, a chap who was of senior years - good on him - and a lady who looked like she was in serious pain but being escorted down by a team mate / partner / husband.  I gave her the good news that she had less than a minute to go which made her smile a little.  The rest of the bike hike was OK and I was able to get on and get riding as soon as the road was clean.  Bottom gear, spinney spinney.  All OK though.  The steep bit was over quickly and then the rest of the ride to Hathersage was down hill most of the way.

I reached the railway line at Hathersage and struggled - really struggled to climb the hill which is only about 100m long.  Time for a rest and probably lunch.  Any excuse to go into the Outside Cafe.  Sure enough, chips and coffee was exactly what I needed.  Two coffees to be precise.  I contemplated my route home quite a lot but in the end, couldn't resist returning on the route I used on the way out this morning.  It was stunning and traffic free.

I was caught on the climb by a man on a Dawes Galaxy - quite a heavy bike - but he usually rides a tandem with his wife on the back so he was enjoying less weight on his ride and I drafted him for as long as I could - also stealing his tail wind.  We chatted for some time when he caught me too after the Burbage climb.  We rode all the way to the Norfolk arms together then I turned off and we shouted "see ya" to each other.

There's nothing more to report except the climbs on the road from Norfolk arms seemed normal.  I even rode through Redmires and past the Sportsman thinking that I wasn't actually destroyed.  Don't get me wrong, I was tired, but considering what I'd done today, I've been a lot worse, like the time I drafted a 12 year old boy, just to get an easy ride (he was in full Langsett Cycles kit, I might add).

I even managed to swing by the Asda in Walkley to stock up on food for dinner.  It's like I'm somehow making it, a little more every day, to being me again.

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