Spire Ultra – Karen’s update

Nick’s photos from the event are here: Spire Ultra 33mi. 14/05/2022. | Flickr

Karen’s account cross posted from her blog here.

The Spire and possibly getting preparation wrong

 Our plan was simple- travel to Derbyshire, climb on Stanage, wild camp, check out sport climbing at Harpur Hill and then race on Saturday (well Bob had a bike ride planned).  As we drove down the M61 it rained and the sky was grey; not what was forecast. The end of the M67 had a massive bottle neck and we were stuck for over 45 mins… never mind , it will give the weather chance to improve. By the time we parked at Cut throat bridge near Ladybower it was looking better. We walk to the climb warmed us up and I even thought I had too many layers. It didn’t last. The wind was ferocious and by the time we had stood around, decided on a climb I had two base layers, a fleece, primaloft and cag on plus 3/4 tights and big thick leggings over the top. I was not warm. By the time we had done one climb our hands were almost numb and standing on the top at the belay was getting tricky. What a bugger! Keen to salvage something from the day I jogged back to the van, changed and decided I could checkout another 20+ miles of the LDWA 100 route. Moscar to Wentworth and then down to Elsecar where Bob would meet me in the van.

Ironically down in the shelter it was warm and sunny. I ran all afternoon in 3/4s and a T shirt! I was tired after it turned out to be almost 24 miles but enjoyed my exploring and this part of the country gets my vote for the friendliest locals.  No longer trusting the weather forecasts we opted to climb indoors on Friday but not until we had explored Elsecar. Usually I run past it on Round Rotherham and had never realised how much history there was. We were still at Awesome walls shortly after they opened at 10am. We had forgotten how much more daunting the extra height can be compared to Preston and the grades here also seemed a bit tougher too. It was fun though and there was so much more than we could manage in one visit even though we did stay for almost six hours. Yes, I know… 24 miles run and 6 hrs climb not the best race prep but life is short.

You know it’s tall when it won’t all fit in the shot

A shortish drive to just south of Chesterfield found us wild camping again within a five minute drive of the race start.  A quite night and a good sleep followed by a very short drive meant we were super early and all the flags etc were up by 7.30. It was good to have time to meet friends and ponder how hot the day might be.

Still not trusting the forecast I stayed in 3/4s and it was HOT. Shortly before 9am we were herded to the start away from busy roads and suddenly we were off. Kevin and others quickly disappeared out of sight and I concentrated on not letting myself be pulled along by the pace. Although I had done the race twice before there were huge chunks I could not remember. Fortunately some felt familiar once I arrived and I was able to prevent other runners going wrong more than once. It’s not a stunning route but does have some very pretty sections. I love the blue bell  and the beech woods. It was getting hotter but I had caught up with Annette the only woman in front of me.

I knew Sarah would not be far behind. One marshal deserves a medal, he had bought ice lollies for us. I think it was at CP2 but as there were lots of extra road marshal points I might be wrong.  I had a lovely chat with a runner preparing for the Dragon’s Back and then met up with another runner who had shared to Beacons 100 race in those awful conditions. He had bailed at the Storey Arms too. I ran on my own for a while and seemed to pull away from all 3 ‘friends’.  Mostly I remembered the way at stiles etc but I did have to use OS on my phone a couple of times just to be sure. At 33 miles this race is on the short side for me and there is so much that demands you RUN. It left little time for eating and so I tried to down a few jellies and drink more.

Shortly after the CP near Hundall, about 19 miles in, I started to get stitch and an upset stomach. I was in the bushes as a very strong looking Sarah powered past me. She stayed in sight for miles but I couldn’t/wouldn’t catch her. The next section of the race is not as pretty as you traverse old mining settlements like Brimington and use some tracks along old rail lines. I hate those straight flat miles, probably because it shows me what a rubbish runner I am Lakeland fells give me a chance to walk and eat). Things improve again after Arkwright Town with pleasant countryside (except for the field of head  high yellow rape) and you get a view of Bolsover Castle, Scarsdale Hall and then the pretty village of Health.  I could still see Sarah up ahead as we climbed to Heath  but once in the village she pulled ahead and out of sight. The end is now not far but now my stitch was a real pain and as we hit the last few miles on the Five Pits Trail I was reduced to walking every few hundred metres to ease it. Perhaps I should just ‘man-up’ and put in more effort and ignore the discomfort. I assumed Sarah was well ahead but in fact it was only 5 minutes- would a more determined effort have caught her? I doubt it she was running strongly. We both finished inside the previous record that I had set back in 2019 when the race was only in it’s second year. This year the ground was rock hard. Sarah finished in 5hrs 43 and I was 5 minutes behind. The leading men were home in 4hrs 45- well done Kevin.

Thanks to Jamie the RO- and yes he really is tall, those are adult women not primary school children.