Thursday, 22 September 2011

'The High Peak 40' - 42miles 5,400'


I blame the mrs for this one! After drunkenly agreeing to do this one Sunday night back in May, as we gathered on the start line in Buxton at 8am on Saturday morning I was wondering what the hell I’d let myself in for. My plan for this one was to run the flat and walk the uphills – a bit of research indicated this would give me a finish time within 10 hours, but provided my finish time was within Saturday I’d be more than happy!!

With a great deal of thanks to the course profile on the excellent Hayfield Races website, I was able to work out my fuelling tactics in advance of the race (mile 15 and the Rushup Edge checkpoint was the big one, for reference, not only was it almost midway through the race, it preceded a steep descent followed by a consderable ascent), but in truth I was fuelling from the early stages to ensure I stayed on top of things.
With the run/walk strategy I did this event at a pretty low intensity, covering the first 6 miles in around 63 minutes, but without feeling like I’d run any distance at all. This first part only featured a bit of climb, taking us outside Buxton and down the Goyt Valley towards the second CP at Taxal Layby where I had my first gel.

CP3 - Digleach Farm
With this being my first ultra I was prepared to fail completely and put it down to experience, and it was hard to run 'within myself' on some of the lesser climbs, but my fear of dying in the middle of nowhere after 20-odd miles made me keep a lid on things.
I'd covered marathon distance by around 5 hours into the race and was feeling pretty jazzy, seeing mrs theoptimisticrunner with her arms full of tuna sandwiches and coffee at Tideswell Dale provided a nice break from the driving rain at the time.
I just kept chipping away at the race to be honest - once i'd covered the first 10 miles comfortably then it just became a 30 mile race, and I knew I was good for a marathon, and once I got to 30 miles without my legs dropping off I could start thinking about a likely finish - it was looking like i'd be comfortably within the 9 hours I'd been keeping to myself as a realistic target.
This was a great way to spend a day, meeting Will Meredith and Nick Ham, two people whose blogs I read all the time – Nick Ham’s blog probably got me into Ultra running – and swapping places along the course with a great bunch of people who were telling me about their recent exploits on long distance events around Europe.  
Will Meredith wrote a much funnier account of the day here so I will point you in the direction of his account, there is also a much moredetailed route description hidden away on the aforementioned Hayfield Races website for those looking to complete this one in the future.
To cut a long story short I finished in 8h16mins (someone bizarrely tried to sprint finish me but I saw him off) and was absolutely buzzing at the finsh – mrs theoptimisticrunner was waiting for me there with the dog  and we tucked into a cheese and onion pie and a slice of cake in the school canteen whilst I recovered.

I didn’t have any aches and pains after this one (maybe because of the low intensity I ran at) and managed 14 miles the Thursday afterwards with no problems, but I reckon it knocked 30 seconds a mile or so off my pace for the following 4 weeks or more.

Thanks to mrs TOR for 1) entering me! 2) buying me a waterproof coat the week earlier in case it rainsed and 3) coming to meet me at mile 26 with a tuna sandwich and a cup of coffee.

Whilst I couldn’t run an ultra every weekend like Nick Ham, (a bit too time consuming), I think I’ll stick one a year in the calendar – next year the Bullock Smithy perhaps??

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