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Calderdale Hike 2016

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I’ve now got the Calderdale Hike results, and they’re now included in the Runfurther leaderboard here.  The race results are now up on the race website.

To everyone’s amazement there was a window of good weather just long enough for us all to have a good run.  The slower runners and the walkers will have got caught by the rain, sleet and snow that followed, but most of the runners got away with it, dry from the knees up.  Yes, it was a bit muddy!

First to finish was Edward Davies in 5:36 (2nd last year), second Steven Radcliffe 4 minutes behind him, and third was Keven Hoult in 5:51.  Nicky Spinks was first woman in 6:18.  Chris Davies kept Nicky in sight for most of the way but lost sight of her in the end to finish first V50 & V60 in 6:27.  Karen Nash was 2nd woman in 7:04, with Beverley Holmes 3rd in 8:43.  Numbers overall were down on 2015, although there were a lot of Runfurther members there.

Karen Nash has written up her run, and you can find that on her blog here.  Sport Sunday were there taking photos, and you can find them here.  Nick Ham was taking photos too, as he ran, and they are here.  He took the photo above, which is on the first climb out of the valley.

See you at the Fellsman!

Andy’s run

A week before the Calderdale Hike I came down with a cold.  Leading up to the race I was feeling pretty awful, coughing and spluttering, and the last thing I felt like doing was running 36 miles.  The only reason I was on that starting line was that I’d entered all the other Runfurther races already, and there was no way my Grand Slam attempt was going to be abandoned without a fight.  If not for the Slam I’d have stayed at home in bed.  So at 8am I dosed myself up with paracetamol and codeine, the objective being to suppress the coughing enough to get through the Hike without doing so much damage to myself that I wasn’t in a fit state to start the Fellsman.

At 9am I tottered off along with everybody else, and to be honest didn’t feel too bad.  Left out of the gates and down the greasy path and steps to cross the valley.  It was as soon as we started up the slippery cobbles that I started to feel the state of my body, so I slowed up a bit.  To be honest I didn’t have much choice.  I knew I was going to be much slower than last year.  On the way over the moors heading south to the M62 we didn’t get last year’s sleet, and I was enjoying the run out.  I fell in with a loose group of runners, including Carmine and Andy and a team of 4 from Bolton wearing red spots, and we kept more or less in touch all the way to Lumbutts.  I took the main road option to Windy Hill, as it does save a few minutes, and then the sneaky cut across the Blackstone Edge ridge to follow the Broad Head Drain path, which is much faster than the Pennine Way.  I overtook Nick Ham here, as he cut off left earlier on a slower route to the Drain.  I then led a group of about 8 on the Hey Head Lane route up to the Stubley Cross Hill turbines, rather than the recommended route – I don’t think it’s quicker, but it’s the route I know.

Down to the “stepping stones” footbridge, and then we had to find the new checkpoint location below Coolam, but that turned out to be straightforward enough.  Andy and I then headed up to the top of Trough Edge End to follow the footpath down, while the spotty boys contoured round to the right.  They’d have probably got away from us here if they’d got the line spot-on, but they dropped a bit too low and had to climb back up a bit to join us.  By the time we got to the Slate Pit Hill checkpoint I was starting to feel pretty tired.  My legs were OK, but my head wasn’t.  Bob Nash was at the checkpoint, having decided to retire after falling and hitting his head – he also had a cold and had the Fellsman ahead of him, so it seemed the right decision to me, although he seemed unsure later whether he’d done the right thing.

Andy and I headed off across the moor and down to Cornholme, with the Bolton lads sometimes in front and sometimes behind.  They were running faster than us but didn’t know the route and were frequently checking their GPS, so we kept coming past them again.  We all flogged up to Mount Cross together, then Andy and I pushed off ahead of them on the track down to Cross Stone.  I was still able to run OK, but I was starting to feel more wobbly all the time, concerned I might pass out while I was running.  We crossed the valley and headed up to the Lumbutts Church checkpoint, and here I made the decision to take the safest option and walk the rest of the way.  Andy, Carmine and the Bolton runners disappeared into the distance as I ambled along under Stoodley Pike, chatting to the walkers.  Nick Ham and Mick Cottam came by shortly after as well.  Somehow I managed to overtake all the walkers I saw without actually walking faster than most of them.  I think it was just that I wasn’t stopping and wasn’t hesitating over the route.  The climb up out of Cragg Vale was really hard, and then the rain started as I walked the last couple miles along the road to the finish.  I was trashed.

So, the only sensible thing to do was to go home and take it easy until the Fellsman.  Instead I headed over to Scarborough for my brother’s 60th birthday bash on the Sunday, then home for dental work on the Monday, then into Manchester on the Tuesday which is why I haven’t been able to write this until today (Wednesday).  I’ve still got every intention of running the Fellsman – although I’m still coughing a bit, and I’m still feeling pretty wiped out.

Calderdale Hike 2015 (updated)

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I’ve now added the Calderdale Hike results to the Runfurther leaderboard (with a couple of corrections made a few days later), and put the team results up too.  Nick Ham’s photos can be found here.  Karen went off to Scotland to bag Munros straight from the race, but she sent a race report when she got back, and that’s now at the bottom of this post, after my race write-up.  Anyone else fancy writing up races ot taking photos?  If so, just send them in, or send me a link!

First home was Ian Symington (last year’s Runfurther winner) in 5:31, with Edward Davies 12 minutes behind him.  First woman (and first FV50) was Karen Nash, in 6:43, and Chris Davies finished with Karen to take first MV50 and first MV60 as well.  I was pleased to finish joint 11th with my time of 6:55 (2nd MV50 and 2nd MV60), and Carol Morgan was 2nd woman, finishing in 7:20.  In general those who’d recced the route (which included Karen and I) were at a significant advantage so got good placings.  And a good day for those of us of advancing years too!  We now have our first MV70 on the leaderboard as well – good effort Bob Nash!  And yes, he is related to Karen (her husband in fact).

The Calderdale Hike has a new route every 3 years, and 2015 was a new route year.  The complexity of the terrain and footpaths around the Calder Valley means a new CH route can pose significant navigational challenges, and that was certainly the case this year.  Luckily for the navigationally challenged, visibility was good all day yesterday, but it still meant that anyone who hadn’t done comprehensive recces of the route was at a considerable disadvantage.  Although there’s a “suggested route” on the event website, it doesn’t always show the fastest route, so those of us after a good time needed to research beforehand to get a faster finish time.  So, (1) people lost time deciding where to go, (2) people lost time going the wrong way, and (3) people lost time taking a slower option.

I thought the route was a good one, with plenty of fast easy sections, but also some challenging routefinding across the moors.  Overall it was quite a fast route if you knew where to go, with most of the more difficult stuff in the first half, where you want it.  And no horrible climb up from Luddenden Foot at the end this time!

The organisation of the event was immaculate as always.  Linden and his team do a terrific job, with food laid on at all the checkpoints, and at the finish as well of course.  The checkpoints worked like clockwork when I was there.  After the hot weather of the past few days, Saturday morning was a bit of a shock, or it would have been if I hadn’t checked the weather forecast in advance.  My plans for running in t-shirt and shorts went out of the window, and it was back to thermal top, tracksters and gloves.  It was raining when I got up, rained all the way to Sowerby, and didn’t stop until just before we set off.

As well as providing Clif Bars for all starters, and prizes for the winners, we also had a Spot Prize Draw for Runfurther members.  To be eligible you had to have completed both the Haworth Hobble and the Calderdale Hike.  The winners were:

  • Jenny Garside (Ultimate Direction bumbag)
  • Ian Sanderson (Injinji Kit Bag)
  • Carol Morgan (RaidLight top)
  • Dave Ralphs (Injinji cap)

We couldn’t find Ian Sanderson on the day, and he’s told me to put his prize back in the pot for next time – thanks Ian!

My race report

So we all ran out of the gate, and immediately the first route split started.   Most runners went right on the road route to CP1, but some of us turned left to head down the more direct route, down the slippery steps, and up the slippery setts on the other side of the valley.  Just before CP1 the two routes met, confirming our suspicions: the runners we met coming up the road route were much faster runners than us, so we must have picked the faster route.  After that steep climb it was fairly easy running all the way to CP2 at the Ryburn Reservoir dam.  We’d started catching short route walkers up by this time, and as we started up Blackwood Edge Road towards Dog Hill we could see a line of them, following the wrong line too high up the hillside.  At this point the hail started.  Coats on, hoods up, fingers crossed.  Luckily it didn’t get so hard as to be painful, and it sooned eased off to rain, then stopped after 15 minutes or so, and that was it for the day – no more rain.  It was a bit of a procession most of the way to the Windy Hill CP, although there were some possible chances to gain a few places.  I tried two: one made no difference, but the other one got me past a few people.  There were options on the next section too, over to the White House, and a number of ways down to Sladen Fold.  I think the one I took was as fast as any, and it must have been faster than some, as I passed 1 or 2 more runners here.

The next couple of sections are the “interesting bits” navigationally.  The route crosses the moors between the Sladen Fold and Stepping Stones checkpoints, and there are many footpaths marked on the map, not all of which exist on the ground.  There are also many paths and trods that aren’t marked on the map.  There is extensive wind turbine construction going on, none of which is marked on the map.  Add to this that the moorland is generally pretty featureless, and you’ve got the makings of a lot of confused runners going round in circles – it was lucky we could see where we were going.  I headed up from Sladen Fold on a different route from most, with a couple of other runners following me.  I still don’t know whether it was the fastest option, but at least I knew where I was going.  We joined the construction road on Stubley Cross Hill, and followed it until we could cut across to the path round Rough Hill.  At least the road wasn’t the quagmire it had been when I’d first recced it in November.

The next section, to Slate Pit Hill, is a bit more straighforward navigationally, but there were still a few opportunities for going the wrong way (just ask Nick Ham about his recce!)  I was starting to tire a bit, but still able to run properly.  The next bit across Todmorden Moor and down to Cornholme was easy enough, and the plod up to Mount Cross was as horrible as I expected.  And now we were on the Haworth Hobble route, slanting across the valley side on good tracks, descending almost imperceptibly.  On the Hobble, this is where I find out whether I’m going well or not.  If this feels OK, I’ll finish in style.  If it feels difficult, I’ll be struggling well before the end.  On this year’s Hobble I struggled.  Yesterday, with more miles under my belt, I was going a lot better, and that really put heart into me, particularly when I considered I wouldn’t have to climb Stoodley Pike or Crimsworth Dean.

So we plugged up the hill to Lumbutts, and we were just leaving the checkpoint when Chris Davies passed me on his way in, for the second time.  I did a double take: Chris is much faster than I am, and I don’t generally see him except before the start of a race.  He hadn’t recced the route, and so had lost a lot of time.  Five minutes later, as I was struggling up the stony track where I’d broken my wrist 5 weeks earlier on a recce, Chris jogged past at twice my speed, looking like he’d only just put his running shoes on.  Oh well, at least I didn’t have to worry about him coming up behind me any more.  We dropped down into the valley, picked up two more lost-looking runners on the main road, and headed up the last climb to Nab End.  I don’t usually mind the last climb of a race, and this felt OK, and it was soon over.  We got to the checkpoint at 3:35 – we had 25 minutes to finish in under 7 hours, so we scooted off down the track and made it with 5 minutes to spare.  I felt knackered but very happy with my time.  How I’m going to manage an extra 25 miles on top of that on the Fellsman in a fortnight I really don’t know.

One of the two runners who’d followed me up from Sladen Fold was Dave Orbinson, and he stuck with me for the rest of the Hike: he was faster that me but didn’t know the way.  Without me, or someone else to show him the way, I suspect he’d have been a lot slower.  If he’d known the way he’d certainly have been a lot faster than me.  As it was, we stuck together to the end, and although he could have gone away from me on the last road section he didn’t, and we finished together – thanks Dave!

Andy Robinson

Karen Nash’s race report

This event seems to have been a regular fixture as race No2 in Runfurther for the last few years. One thing that I like is that the route changes every 3 years. So despite knowing the area fairly well this was the year for recces, especially as it was all new to Bob. Andy shared his notes from explorations and then we added ours. The middle section would be tricky even without the wind turbine construction site. Fortunately we live fairly close as it took several visits. By race day I knew what all the options were and where I was going.

We parked at the cricket ground on Friday night and settled down early in bed in the certainty that we would be woken as the organisers arrived. By 7.30 we were up, fed and had erected banner flags, banners and display boards. Even with registration and kit check it left plenty of time to chat to friends. The weather looked worse than the forecast so I ignored those in shorts and opted for 3/4s and my thicker cag. Seconds after Linden shouted ‘off you go’ it was chaos. The suggested route went right at the road but a dozen of us turned sharp left. Andy and I chuckled as we heard to confusion behind us. Our route was tricky with steep cobbles and steps that were treacherous in the wet – thank god for the handrail. At the top of the cobbles we met runners ascending from Triangle and I knew our route had been faster. It was now getting warmer- time to stow my cag. We seemed to be flying along and I was anxious that my pace was too fast but I felt fine and even my ribs/intercostals were fine on all but the steepest and rockiest descents.

After CP2 I thought the field might split again but we seemed to all take the suggested route to Ryburn Reservoir. By now we were catching and passing many of the walkers who had set off earlier and it is nice to slowly pick people off. The clouds though were gathering and I put my cag back on as the wind and rain started. It was a bit grim on Rishworth Moor with icy rain drilling holes in my forehead. It was a relief to drop to the drainage channel and even better the dam wall. Sadly the wall ended with a 90 degree turn into the wind- it brought me to a stop. Bob had a lucky escape here when a wave shot over the dam wall and just missed him. People were now settling into their natural pace and race place. Carmine was running well and came past with a cheery wave and we headed off to Windy Hill. I suspected the verge of the A672 would be faster but did not fancy running with the traffic. This allowed Andy to gain 200m and then add 200m. Oh well. Setting off for Blackstone Edge the wind was at a better angle and I tried to pick off runners up ahead. I saw Andy head off west early but I stuck to my plan and watched for the little cairn I had built. A trod took me up gently to the rocks and then a short easy run and I was down on the drainage channel. I was surprised nobody followed me and as I crossed the ditch it was clear I had gained 500m on Andy. We both gained time and saved energy compared to those who went over the top.

At the White House I grabbed a sandwich and dropped into Castle Clough. Most runners were sticking to the suggested route but not me. As I left the CP on the canal at Sladen Fold I met half a dozen faster runners coming back to look for the CP; Chris D and Carmen among them. Andy and I disagreed on the best route for the next bit and he had not caught me up again yet anyway. As I climbed to the moor eating I was surprised that the lost group did not catch me. Instead as I shut the fell-side gate I realised I had almost caught another group. Before I could check who they were or shout they disappeared off left whereas I climbed straight ahead and joined the wind turbine construction road. Not only had the windy and mostly dry weather dried it out they seemed to have steam-rollered it! I could see others floundering across the moor and smiled. I caught the group (Barney, Mike, Irish- but they had dropped Simon) before Rough Hill and stayed with them for miles. They were faster than me really but I was determined to keep up. Trough End quickly came and went and we picked a perfect trod to Limers Gate track. Another sandwich and we were off to yet more turbines. I decided it was dry enough to risk the mountain bike area in the woods so we descended together to Cornholme. We split a bit climbing to Mount Cross but their company was great and pulled me on faster than if I had been on my own.

The next section was familiar Haworth Hobble route but although they pulled ahead on the big descent we were back together by Lumbutts church. On London Road they pulled ahead again and I tried to imagine elastic from me to them easing me forward. At least there was no ascent of Stoodley Pike today and we were on the home straight. I was on my own as I dropped to the Cragg Vale road and climbed to Hollins Hey Farm but just as I entered the tussocky steep field Chris Davies appeared. This is not someone I expect to be ahead of in a race but despite nav errors and having no time for a recce he was in good humour. We chatted and pushed on upwards. By Nab End I suggested he push on but he was relaxed and sociable and stayed with me even when we met the final road and I was almost begging him to go on alone so I could drop the pace. We ran in to the finish together in 6 hours 43. For him this is likely a PW and he will be faster next year. For me it was a PB and I was very pleased to be first lady. Andy appeared shortly afterwards and we were able to sit eating and drinking together before the prize giving. Food is another thing the Calderdale Hike does well. I was still talking and eating when Bob finished minutes inside his self imposed 10 hour limit. A good day’s racing. It rained as Nick and I took down the flags but nothing could dampen my spirits. Thanks to those I had the fortune to run with – you were good company.

Karen

Calderdale Hike 2014

Firstly, welcome on board to RaidLight, our newest sponsor for the 2014 series!

We had a great day on Saturday apart from the rain that hit us slower participants.  The results aren’t up yet, so the leaderbard update will have to wait until next weekend, when I get back from the Lakes.  Nick Ham has returned from swanning round the world & got back to his real work of running & reporting on ultras.  His photos are here.  Here’s Nick’s race report:

Calderdale Hike 37 miles. Sat 12/04/2014

A competitive field of runners gathered in Sowerby for the 36th Calderdale Hike. Although this was the third race in the 2014 Runfurther series it would be my first on account of me working (and doing a bit of loose leg swinging) in foreign climes throughout March.

Calderdale Hike has been a long-standing firm favourite in the Runfurther series with physical and navigational challenges that seem unique to Calderdale. It was good to be back and see the familiar faces, one of the first being Ian Symington. I offered my hand by way of greeting, to which he replied: “You wouldn’t like to touch this after where it’s been”, as he tried to dissipate the Vaseline onto his other hand.

Kevin Hoult was also back to do his thing. He had to return anyway to return the winner’s trophy from last year. In addition to Ian and Kevin, Kim Collison was also there to spice up the proceedings among the men. For the women, Nicky Spinks, Helen Skelton and our very own Karen Nash were familiar names in contention.

We gathered outside the cricket pavilion for the 9am runners’ start under overcast skies with a cool breeze blowing and rain forecast before midday. At the moment the ground was uncharacteristically dry. It would be the third and final year for this route, which has been marked throughout by cool and damp conditions by the end of the day. That is in stark contrast to the previous 3-year route from 2009 to 2011, which was marked throughout by summer-like conditions of warmth, sunshine, dry ground, even moor fires one year!

With the race organiser’s send-off instructions ringing in our ears – don’t descend right from Hoof Stones Height otherwise you’ll get filled with lead like the grouse (my words, not his, but you get the gist) – we were sent off on our tour of checkpoints at Nab End, Erringden Grange, Stoodley Pike, Lumbutts, Cross Stone, Mount Cross, Hoof Stones Height, Widdop Reservoir, Top Withins, Tom Stell’s Seat (far point), Grain Water Bridge, New Bridge, Delf End, Jerusalem Farm and Luddenden Foot. The leaders slowly pulled away out of sight on the long uphill start never to be seen again, so thanks to Kevin Hoult for the following privileged information from the sharp end.

Kevin Hoult, Kim Collison and Ian Symington bounced back and forth with each other until CP5 at Cross Stones, each taking a variety of route choices. Kim was looking strong at CP5 and had probably been delayed by route choice issues. (Going via Mytholmroyd between CP1 and CP2 is definitely not optimum despite what the organiser’s suggested route might say.) Ian, on the other hand, knew the route well but may have been slowed just a little after completing the Lakes 42 race on the previous weekend, where he finished second. He also may have been under the weather after recent recovery from illness. How would the rest of the race pan out? Sadly the blow-by-blow account stops here (reason explained later) so I have to fast-forward to the results, which are:

1st Kim Collison:  5:24

2nd Ian Symington: 5:28

3rd Edward Davies: 5:38

And for the women:

1st Nicky Spinks: 6:17

2nd Karen Nash: 7:04

3rd Carol Morgan: 7:07

Well done to all for most impressive results. I know Helen Skelton’s name would have been up there in lights, but I hear she had to retire due to injury. Get well soon, Helen.

So what about Kevin? He is recovering from a foot problem and wasn’t sure he’d be fit enough to do the full 37 miles so he elected to do the ‘short’ marathon distance instead. That required him to backtrack from CP5, which is why the blow-by-blow account of the long race stopped there. He did not disgrace himself though. He won in record time of 3:48; a marathon around the Calderdale hills and bogs in 3:48? That is some going. Apparently the foot held out well, so we can look forward to even hotter competition in the Runfurther series men’s category from now on.

Here’s hoping that Helen can get herself repaired so she can raise the temperature in the women’s category as well. We’re rooting for you Helen.

Now with the important information taken care of, please forgive Ultraploddernick his indulgence:

I settled into the job of easing my way around the route as fast as possible, not blowing up too badly and not finishing too low in the bottom quarter of the field. I was expecting a PB, given that I had enjoyed a few more weeks back in the UK from business travel to get some races and fitness in the bank. Regardless of that and true to form, the inevitable slowdown occurred after more than 2 hours and the overtaking and leaving for dust commenced, especially after that slog across the bogs after Hoof Stones Height. Am I the only one who’s always wasted by the time they reach the track on the other side and has to walk? Many overtook me on that track, including the winning team, which gained just over half an hour on me from there to the finish.

Now it was time to bimble for an hour or two, down from Widdop and up towards the Walshaw Dean reservoirs. As I crossed the dam a group of walkers passed in the opposite direction. They recognised me and I recognised them as friends of old from the LDWA events. We exchanged pleasantries and they wished me good luck. A few groups of runners also passed in the opposite direction doing their own thing. One of them was heard to say: “That was a Glossopdale Harrier”. Yes, I was proudly sporting my new fell-racing colours on their longest outing yet by far.

On the climb up from the empty Walshaw Dean Middle Reservoir (empty for maintenance, certainly not due to drought), I felt as though I was at the back of the pack, all alone with no-one in sight behind me. However, true to form, after a prolonged slowdown to allow the body to recover I began to reel a few runners back in on the approach to the far point at Tom Stell’s Seat and the turn back into the wind for home 13 miles away. The only other times I did the overtaking were thanks to optimum route-finding. I got it spot on this year, and we get to begin all over again next year on a new route. It’s why we keep coming back. Calderdale Hike never gets old or stale.

I thought we were going to get away with it as far as the rain was concerned. A tiny sprinkle was felt as we climbed up towards Hoof Stones Height but was soon forgotten. It was well into the afternoon before the first dense drizzle shower blew in as I descended towards New Bridge. I didn’t mind now because I was on the homeward stretch with 9 miles to go. It was never enough for waterproofs anyway.

I’d been eating well but was feeling hungry again and looking forward to a third sandwich at New Bridge. However there were none left. A “supply cockup” was mentioned and more supplies might be arriving later. I wasn’t going to wait; I wasn’t that desperate. I made do with a couple of custard creams instead, which are never a disappointment in themselves.

The final big climb took us out of the valley to Pecket Well, through the Delf End checkpoint and up onto the moor via Deer Stones Edge. The crossing after the second ventilation shaft is somewhat damp underfoot but the linear bog on the other side masquerading as a footpath is something to behold (and wade through). During the enforced walking/stumbling break I seized the opportunity to eat yet more food to keep the fire burning as the bog-slogging was making me feel somewhat drained.

I caught up with the fastest walking group (the one that wins every year) at the Jerusalem Farm checkpoint. They had started two hours earlier. After that is was a (mostly) downhill road run to the final checkpoint at Luddenden Foot, where the car occupant emerged just long enough to clip my tally and note my time and number – I was alone yet again. Then it was a final short run along the canal towpath to the next bridge, right over the river and follow the road up, down then up to the finish (via the back entrance of course). One of the staggered prize presentations was in progress as I arrived.

7:58 was more than I could have wished for considering I’d only managed 8:39 in 2013 and 8:34 in 2012. Age isn’t a barrier to speed. 😉 The post-race meal and enough tea to sink a battle ship provided the perfect refuelling. Many thanks once again to the organisers and marshals, who have to work on the runner’s and walkers’ behalf for a very long day. The organisation is slick and professional (apart from the sandwich situation at New Bridge, but I’ll let you off on that, all things considered). The Calderdale Hike is always a pleasure to return to every year.

Congratulations of relief must go to Andy Robinson who, recovering from a stress fracture of his leg, elected to walk the long route on the runners’ start. He wasn’t the last one back, he had no leg problems and he returned in time for the Runfurther committee meeting, which was not expected. Good news Andy, you’re back.

I took a few pictures during the day.

Nick Ham.