Sunday, 11 March 2012

Hobbling along

The date of 10th March 2012 had been lurking in the back of my mind since I signed up for the Haworth Hobble just after Christmas. Having decided to run 20 events in 12 months to raise money for the MS Society: with the highlight being the Lakeland 50 Ultramarathon in July, I thought it wise to get some big distance trail races in beforehand to get an idea of what that kind of mileage felt like.
The Haworth Hobble seemend perfectly timed, 32 miles (or 50k) traversing gritstone moors around Haworth, Todmorden and Hebden Bridge on the Yorkshire/Lancashire border. 4,400ft of ascent/descent sounded lot (it was actually 4,600ft) but I had no frame of reference and I had ran an off road trail marathon on similar terrain a couple of years back so felt like I could handle the terrain.
Due to being mentally busy at work, It was only really the day before that I started to think about the race and it dawned on me that I was attempting to run further than I had ever run up (and down) some pretty big hills having not running anything like that distance since last year's London marathon, 11 months previously.
There was also the gnawing worry of not knowing the route, so I hastily printed off some maps and roughly plotted where the check points were before seeking advice from Carla (an ultramarathon veteran) on what food and drink to take to get me through it. One shopping trip later I was fully stocked with Soreen (which I forgot to take), gels, cereal bars, cashew nuts and sports drinks and after a big bowl of pasta for tea, I got an early night ahead of the 6am start the next day.
After a breakfast of porridge with honey, banana and coconut water, I set of for Haworth but was running late so when a taxi driver slowed down to 20 miles an hour in Keighley, I nipped past, only to see a police van with speed camera on the other side of the road. Not the ideal preparation but I made it in time to collect my number and get to the start line outside the Black Bull pub.
Having no idea where I was going and the route being completely unmarked, I made my way to the front of the pack and settled into a steady rythmn, pausing briefly to take some snaps of the secenery and stretch out my worryingly tight calves. Sticking with a group of Bingley Harriers who seemed to know the route, we clocked seven miles an hour for the first two hours which by my calculations meant we would be done in four and a half hours and I was starting to wonder what all the fuss was about.
I nearly got lost at a checkpoint having stopped to fill my bottle up, the Bingley Harriers had dissappeared into the mist but luckily a couple of lads from Pudsey who were running as a pair and had recce'd the course recently were just behind so I tagged along with them for the next six miles are so, chatting along the way.
It wasn't until the 20 mile mark that the tiredness started to creep in and my left knee jarred on a downhill making it painful to fully extend my left leg. I was still hoping for a sub 5 hour finish when we reached a steep incline into Heptonstall that you could only walk up followed by a steep descent and another sharp incline that sucked the life out of my legs.
I reached the marathon point at 4 hours 10 but was with another massive incline that slowed me down to walking pace and I was now in the unknown distance of my first ultramarathon. At the summit around the 27 mile mark, I managed to get the legs going for one last push, fighting against my aching body's desire to stop and rest and after one last, horrible hill climb, it was downhill to the finish and the warmth of the race HQ at Haworth Primary School.
Time had gone out of the window now and I was happy just to finish in a respectable time of 5 hours and 5 mins (considering my lack of preparation) and didn't feel in bad shape as I woofed down a bowl of stew and bread, washed down by sweet tea and a fairy cake. Exhausted but happy, I set off home a night in with a pizza and beer with the buzz of having got my first ultramarathon under my belt (though the idea of doing another 18 miles on top is starting to fill me with dread...)

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