Sunday, 6 March 2011

trollers trot 24.8 mile

the Trollers Trot is an event organised by the Long Distance Walker's Association, and is very popular with the fell racing community. starting from Upper Wharfedale School in Threshfield, near Grassington in the Yorkshire Dales, the route follows an anti clockwise course and features three major ascents.

with this ostensibly being a walk, the start time was 8 a.m. in order to give competitors time to complete the course in daylight. this meant a 5 a.m. wake up call in order to be in Grassington to collect my number for the race by 7.30, but it also meant a reasonably early finish was on the cards, providing everything went to plan! luckily the weather on the day itself was pretty reasonable: a few degrees above freezing, misty on the tops with some moisture in the air but, as it turned out, dry the whole day.

the race itself was run on trails and footpaths, starting with a long slog for two miles or so up to the open fell of Threshfield Moor, which resulted in a lovely descent with which to make up some lost time and take in the views:

not bad for 9am Saturday morning
we proceeded onwards through Hetton and across to Rylstone - it seemed strange to be running across the road that i'd been down hundreds of times as a kid on my way up to the Dales to the caravan - where we came to our first drinks station. at about 6 miles in, this came at just the right time to stop and catch your breath and get an energy bar down. i took a little too long at this checkpoint trying to get my BlackBerry to work to check my progress (worrying a bit as it's my works phone!!) but was then back on my way.

the next pull up to Rylstone Fell was pretty tough going, maybe three quarters of a mile straight slog upwards, but we were rewarded with a beautiful view:

things then went from one extreme to another as once we'd crested the hill we were then on the open fell, and it was windy!! it was a real struggle to get going, especially after the two climbs we'd already undertaken, and my legs felt seriously wobbly at this point. i had a quick word with myself and tucked in behind another runner. we ran for maybe two miles along this open stretch, then found ourselves dropping down to Upper Bardon resser and a checkpoint.

the next stretch was downhill and very runnable, which saw me clock my fastest mile of the whole race, so I stopped to take a quick picture:

Lower Barden Reservoir - in all its glory
we were then greeted at the end by a refreshments stop complete with cakes at Barden Scale!!:

i just had a small swiss roll
from here on in, psychologically it felt that everything was downhill from here; we'd passed the halfway mark and crossed the bleak, open moorland - having plotted the route on Friday night i knew the course contained more twists, turns and features from here on in - more to keep me occupied.

we took the Dales Way for a short while along the Wharfe up to Howgill, where we were faced with a climb of about a mile - this was quite a testing time as it was the middle of the race and I found myself on my own without anyone in front or behind me, and no markings. i stopped for a minute to put my hat on and have an energy bar, to try and keep things moving in the right direction. i was trotting along with my head down when suddenly a car door burst open and a man with a marker pen jumped out to take my number. a quick study of the route description showed this to be the checkpoint at 15.87 miles - less than 9 miles to go! the next mile or so was downhill, then we found ourselves climbing through a ghyll up to a disused mine, it was around this time i met with a runner who lived just north of Leeds who helped me pass the time and keep going. 

after a climb onto the fell we arrived at another checkpoint, i'd been looking forward to the flapjack at this one! but it was so hard i had to sling half of it - i didn't have 10 minutes to chew it unfortunately! after a short section of road we were back on a the trail downhill towards Hartlington and Burnsall, home of the famous Burnsall Fell Race.

from here on in, the route was a runner's paradise: flat, springy turf along the side of the River Wharfe, past a country pub with outdoor seating overlooking the water (chips never smelt so good) and fine weather, with one exception: this came at the end of 21 miles of fell and trail running. 

 (cramp just out of picture)

the route was full of stop-starts through stiles, over small brooks and tree roots, and a false dawn at Linton Falls - thought we were on the outskirts of Grassington!! the aches were really kicking in every time I paused to go through gates and cross over roads, but a few swigs of ginger beer (check the sugar quotient in the nutritional information if you're not sure why) and some marzipan helped me through this last stretch. when we finally left the Dales Way and turned left onto the road into Threshfield, i was fearing a slog on the road back to the start point, but after cresting the hill, the end was in sight and i somehow legged it to the finish. looking back on my running app, my average speed for the last three miles was 10m49 - that will do me, although it felt like longer!

after scoffing my face with sweet stuff for the past 4h23m, i felt sick as a dog and struggled to eat my jacket potato and beans:

so i took a few minutes to get myself straight and changed into my jogging bottoms and thermals. 

what a brilliant race this was, i almost felt guilty that it only cost me £7.50 to take part, when you look at events like the Wilmslow Half Marathon that cost c. £28 at the last count (no food included), i know where i'd rather be!

my only regret is that the family couldn't have been with me, but i'm working on that for next year!!

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