Calderdale Hike 2015 (updated)

Nick CH 2015 02

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.