Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Tigger Torr

Friday: Go swimming in the morning and am proud to knock out a whole mile.  Get outside and my hips are aching and I decide I deserve the massage that's overdue a week to recover from my christmas-holidays-training-and-race-fest.

I tell my physio just how much I'm looking forwards to my first running race since I grew new muscles in my legs and learned how to use them.

He asked what my race was.  I said I'd entered Tigger Torr.  He said, "Ah, this weekend".  Oh, well there you go then.

The results of my physio appointment were really positive.  The deep tissue massage I had booked turned into a slap-fest verging on the edges of assault as Marcus brought the blood to the surface to reduce the swelling associated with the massage and leave my legs "all zingy" (and pink) ready for Sunday's race.  My eyes were all welling and stingy by the time he'd finished.

Saturday: rested and made a pact with myself to properly *race* on Sunday.  I'm doing one or more a month for the next 6 months so I might as well start somewhere.

I got packed, I plotted a map.  I was ready.  There was a lot of waiting and then we set off and I breathed and I breathed hard.  So much for racing this thing.  I was well into my limits and streams of people were peeling past me until finally I hit mud and got into my stride within a group.

After the first road crossing we were faced with two options.  Many people went left and cut off a corner but they seemed to start to queue on the narrow track and so I stayed on the wide open path and cut my own pace along the corner.

Onto the moor now and half of the pack turned right off the trail and the other half continued on the wide open track.  This time I was surrounded by people going my pace and less of us seem to take the short cut route.  It is also a line I wished I had taken on the boxing day bogtrott so today seemed like good a time as any.

First checkpoint achieved after a subtsantial time wading through heather along a trod.  A few people ran past me as the group ahead slowly moved away but I didn't want to raise my game much at that point.

I exchanged a few places with a bloke in a pink teeshirt and bounded past a few guys coming off burbage rocks as my downhilling skills outweighed my slower pace.  They were still pretty good though.  Here's me: now mixing with people of my own ability!

We were all checking on a guy who had hurt is arm and for a moment I thought he was having a heart attack and felt guilty about not stopping but there were plenty of other racers around and he was still making his way over to marshalls, not *actually* collapsing in the heather.

We scrabbled up the muddy side of Burbage valley and over to Higger Torr then over to Winyards Nick without really noticing it to be honest.  Small changes in position didn't matter until this point when I looked at my watch and made the ridiculous conclusion that with 6 miles done, we only had half as much again to go.  Wrong - I'd only done 6km and still had 9km to go. I didn't realise this at that point though and resolved to keep going at the same pace - even to pick it up a little bit!

We got to the south end of the course at Burbage Bridge and then set off North again where we had the joy of cheering on other racers on their way down - where we could look up.  I shook hands with the marshall as I passed around them and then had the joy of discovering I was ahead of TSK - both of us confused as to how I had got ahead.  Still, there wasn't far to go so I had to keep pushing right?

Climbing off Carl Wark I saw Jen who is a twitter friend that I haven't *actually* *met* yet and is also wife to the nice man who slapped me on Friday.  I squealed a hello as I recognised some blonde hair behind a camera lens attached by a lead to a cantankerous beagle who was voicing his boredom of taking fotos of fell racers.  I should have stopped for a hug but I was sweaty and I felt like I was probably doing quite well and a hug may have been flippant, surprising and a little forward - given the sweaty! - even if she is a fellow runner.

Where we crossed Burbage brook and I acquired a tail through the slush who I then held up as I protected my knees going over the river scramble.  I was looking forwards to legitimately following the path that I'd accidentally taken on the boxing day bogtrott - for real this time.

It didn't disappoint.  My new muscles found routes from rock to rock through the heather and around the hill walkers, really not sure what was going on around them.  Now to venture out across Houndkirk Moor where it suddenly became blatantly obvious that the run was not going to be 10km long at all.

Still, I'd given it some to get here and I wasn't about to give up now.  I at least wanted to hold my place and we all plugged away through the bracken in a long, colourful line.  Occasionally someone came past and occasionally I raised my game and stuck with them until the next pack of people where I either stuck with it or faded into the group and waited for the next fast wave to catch.

We finally hit the Houndkirk Road again - that big wide open track and this time I chose the cut-through route because we were a thinner field.  As we approached the road I saw the change to teh route - no longer retracing our steps back to a short, flat run along the main road but instead, running through a small quarry.  A lady passed me and I complained that my knee was about to divorce me.  She said, "me too" and then proceeded to run away from me.

"It's just cramp in the little knee muscles" I thought and carried on running, trying to relax it into going away... but it stayed... and it got worse.  I hobbled a bit over the rises and then we were back on the road.  It felt like a good thing and I allowed myself to open up my stride a little bit and run fast.  As a fell-runner it pains me sometimes that I'm quite fast on flat roads.  It's like being a rockstar who's quite good at maths.  Cool but a little bit prim and proper at the same time.  Speeds hit 6.7 miles per hour and then we turned onto the Long Line Lane and a downhill.  My knees were hurting anyway so I just opened up.  The stride went long and I threw all regard for the condition of my legs tomorrow out of the window in favour of speed.

I kept hearing the woman behind me on my shoulder catching me up and every time I thought, "well if she comes past me at this speed, there's nothing more I can do" and she never came past.  Men did but I didn't care.   I just wanted to hold onto that ladies' place.  The speed hit 8 miles per hour.

For a brief respite we turned back into the muddy lower pitch of the rugby field and I looked up to see the wall of death - a wood chipped slope of around 5% leading from the lower pitch to the middle pitch.  I joked to the guy to my right that this was the worst hill of the race.  He hadn't looked up, he didn't see it coming, he went backwards with a groan and I never saw him again.

My knee was proper screaming now and all that time I could feel the next place runners breathing down my neck. It wasn't about women's places any more it was about all places and I finally opened up to whatever sprint I had left.  It wasn't much but it was enough not to let me be caught on the middle field.  I checked in then stopped my watch and leant on the shoulders of hte finisher in front of me - just in case my knee collapsed completely.

Over the line I caught up with a lady who I had exchanged places with several times and we'd checked on eachother as we passed by when she stopped to tie her laces and when I slowed down to drink from my Camelbak.

I also said hello to fellow tri club mates and waited for TSK to come in.  He had a nice run but not so good a race as he had battled with the faff.

We hobbled to our car, changed shoes and put on a dry top then drove home.

It was only later when I realised how well I had done.  I took 13 minutes off my previous time - despite the course being longer and I finished 15 places higher in my age group.  I was no longer in the second half of the women's pack but in the top third and just sneaked inside the middle third overall, having come in previously behind 300 other people.

There are things to be credited for today and none of them include much running they are:
Pushing heavy bikes up big hills
The favourable weather conditions - still cold but warmer than years gone by.
My Physio's incredible detective work (and no doubt the slapping)
TSK putting me into the inescapable carrot position.

9.56 miles 1:50:29 524m el.

A/G 9th/33
Women 31st / 94
224th overall of 380 finishers.
Much to my delight, I was the 6th Dark Peak women's finisher meaning that my time contributed to the Dark Peak ladies' B-team being in 6th place.

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