Sunday, 22 May 2011

Leaden Boot Challenge - 26.5 miles - Appox 5000 ft of Ascent

Listening to final instructions at the start.
After a post London Marathon cold, a recovery, a bit of a rest and a couple of boozy nights out I was back on the trail competing in the kind of event that I like best. The inaugural Leaden Boot Challenge is a 26 mile  LDWA challenge event taking in some of the best parts of the White Peak District. The route is circular from Alstonfield taking in, Milldale, ‘Baley Hill’ ‘The Nabs’, ‘Nabs Dale’ Ilam Rock, Ilam Hall, Calton, Throwley Hall, Grindon, Wetton Mill, ‘Sugerloaf’, Hulme End, Sheen, Sheen Hill, Pilsbury Castle, Hartington, Biggin Dale, Iron Tors, and finally back to Alstonefield. The event attracted 250 entrants including about 50 runners.

Happpiness is long distance running
Waking up slightly late at 7.30am for a 10am start the sun was shining brightly in Grantham. Two hours later I arrived in Alstonfield with a thick overhang of cloud and threatening showers. The shower threats materialised as we were shepherded to the start to receive final instructions. I was sorry that I based my kit choice on weather 90 miles away and in the absence of a long sleeved thermal I decided to put on my wind proof jacket. There's an underwhelming simpleness to these events which makes them attractive. There's no fancy start system, instead the organiser makes a few last minute announcements followed by "right, well if your ready you'd better get going, off you go". And off we went. It was clear that navigation was going to be key, no sooner had we left the car park, participants shuffled on to the road looked at each other and asked "which way is it?" I decided to get my map out and I was grateful that I had managed a short of "map marking" whilst watching the boxing the previous evening. The route followed through Milldale and there a steep vertical incline up Baley Hill tested the initial resolve. A precipitous decent of "the Nabs"
Baley Hill in the distance, the first climb.
confirmed that this was going to be a tough run. In hindsight the ascent eased but the rugged underfoot conditions more than made up for it. The rain stopped somewhere before the first checkpoint and I decided to remove my jacket and rely on a technical t-shirt. The rain came and and went all day but it provided refreshment on an otherwise sunny day. My friend Steve Temple had run ahead with two others. I was running alongside Andy Bryant who was training for the Three Peaks Yacht Race later in the year. After Ilam Hall I made a minor navigational error running through the gardens towards the tea shop rather than along a path by the river. The error was soon rectified and I remember passing a bank of pungent wild garlic baking nicely in the mid morning sun. The route of the Leaden Challenge is picturesque passing low through wooded valleys, alongside rivers and then high up peak district hills. There was a surprise view from Ecton Hill that was stunning looking North towards Crowdecote and Chrome Hill in the distance. 

Approaching Ilam
Although I can't remember where I was I do remember passing a massive white bull amongst other cattle in a field. I was impressed by others bravery running close to the mammal as I decided to traverse an "escape" line close to the dry stone wall some distance away. Navigation proved fairly easy with a marked map and after checkpoint two we caught the walkers who had left at 9am. This assisted navigation as there was a steady stream of walkers on the trail for the next 10 or so miles. By the self clip checkpoint before Hartington I thought I was in fourth position there was a bit of distance between Andy and I and I could see Ian Redford up in front. I knew the route well into Hartington and tried to up the pace with a little over six miles left to run. I arrived in Hartington just behind Ian and Peter Stockdale. Ian and I left ahead and trotted out feeling tired after my pre Hartington efforts. I was grateful for Ian offering me an energy gel which I accepted without hesitation. I felt a little guilty running off as it took effect but I wasn't sure how far in front the leader was or how far behind our friend was that we had left at Hartington. The final few miles were hard and i had to resort to the printed instructions to guide me back to Alstonfield. I took a wrong turn in the 
Post race fuel
village and Ian gazumped me to  finish second in 4 hours 51minutes (that'll teach me not to steal energy bars and then run off) well done Ian! Steve Temple had a great run to finish 1st in 4 hours 32 minutes.  I finished third in 4 hours 53 minutes and Peter followed shortly after in 4 hours 56 minutes and Andy Bryant in 5 hours 06 minutes. The post race food was excellent. A choice of vegetarian bake or pie and peas. I opted for the bake followed by a piece of lemon drizzle cake and washed down by plenty of tea.

This was the first Leaden Boot Challenge and in my opinion it was great success for the organisers. There was a genuine will to host an event that was enjoyed by participants. I enjoyed the event very much. The event was well organised both in administration before the event and the organisation on the day. The volunteers at the checkpoints were friendly and supportive. Raynet did their usual sterling job of radio communications keeping the event safe and helping to account for all the participants. And the food, the vegetarian bake was delicious and there were plenty of good homemade cakes.

Double rainbow at Ashbourne

Thanks to all those who made the event a success. A great day was rounded off by the sight of a double rainbow on the way home as I passed through Ashbourne, typifying the mixed weather that had dominated the event.