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.