|Steve Holt and friends get ready to strike the anvil.|
Some 250 people made their way to Devonshire Park in Hazel Grove to take part in the annual 56 mile hike through the Peak District. The anvil was struck at midday on Saturday releasing entrants out towards the Peak District National Park. The weather was humid with a covering of cloud and the threat of a storm that never materialised.
Despite the warm humid conditions the course record of 8:55 set earlier by Andy Trigg fell to a classy performance from Stockport Harrier, James Scott-Buccleuch who blitzed the course in 8 hours and 46 minutes. Stockport Harriers dominated the event taking the Windgather team trophy with a combined time of 28 hours and 29 minutes much to the upset of Macclesfield Harriers who have held the team trophy for some 15 years previously. Philomena Smith of Goyt Valley Striders was first lady home in 12 hours 23 minutes sporting a fluorescent head band to light her way. For all the heroic stories of the runners up front spare a thought for 15 year old Orla Hague who accompanied by her Dad, Andy used the full 24 hours to complete the event, a fine achievement. The Bullock Smithy 2011 was another great success overshadowed to a degree with the news that a friend had fallen at Miller's Dale breaking her jaw in four places and requiring surgery. All the best for a speedy recovery.
|Steve Temple climbs Bow Stones later finishing in 10 hours 10 minutes|
36 to go. I left Castleton for my preferred route up Cave Dale, some prefer a steep climb up Goosehill followed by a more even runnable plateau. At Cave Dale I was caught by Nigel Aston who seemed to be running strong. We watched a dog that had chased a sheep up the steep valley side and was involved in a protracted stand off. The sheep occasionally butted the dog as the dog stalked and yelped. Eventually the owners began to climb the steep valley side to catch the dog. A child cried with worry in case the dog became so occupied that it wouldn't come back. We didn't see the conclusion we had a Bullock Smithy to continue!
I was still struggling and trying to work what was making me feel so ropey so early in the event, the legs were fine but energy levels seemed lacking. Nigel ran ahead and when I finally approached the summit of Cave Dale I saw Julian Brown in the distance. Julian had taken the Goosehill route and despite leaving Castleton shortly behind me, he arrived at the summit of the valley quicker. The sight of two compatriots making distance on me added to my woes and I contemplated if things might get so bad that I might have to retire, such thoughts are usual 30 miles in but not after only 20 or so miles. I decided to take a bit more time at Peak Forest checkpoint taking on plenty of food and the first High Five energy powder of the day. I shuffled out of checkpoint 7 at 24 miles and up the road eating a banana.
Crossing the stile at the top I glanced behind to see another entrant gaining on me. By now the food and powder were taking affect and I decided it was make or break time. I didn't want to be passed again. I would have to kick into a steady pace and maintain it to Miller's Dale or my event would be shot. I began to jog steadily until I was able to run and gradually picked up the pace. I know through experience that a common feature of ultra running is that you can feel dejected, demoralised and knackered one minute and quite elated and full of bounce the next. I pushed on with renewed vigour gaining on and eventually passing Nigel Aston just before Miller's Dale. 100 paces walking then 100 paces running was the recipe for the stiff climb to the A6, I squatted at the top to relive the strain in my muscles and then pushed on knowing that there were flater runnable sections to Chelmorton and on to Earl Sterndale, things were looking up. A doughnut at Chelmorton checkpoint helped me to catch up with Julian Brown of Macclesfield Harriers. Julian had cycled 800 miles (yes 800 miles) the previous week in an event called Paris-Brest-Paris completing the event in 78 hours, an achievement so big that I struggle to understand the perspective of it, incredible.
Just after Cumberland Cottage (43 miles)
I ran with Julian from Earl Sterndale at 35 miles back to the finish and was grateful for the company. I felt good leaving Earl Sterndale and my early race woes were but a distant memory. We kept a good pace to Brand Top following the sound of the barking dogs in the distance. Julian took the road out of Brand Top but I preferred the fields, for the second time Julian's route choice prevailed and I had to put some work in on the way to Three Shires Head in order to catch him up. Further motivation was provided by knowing that we would arrive at Cumberland Cottage before night fall making the descent through Cumberland Cut more manageable.
|Nigel Aston with support crew|
It was good to see my partner taking a video of us shortly after leaving Cumberland Cottage at 43 miles before the monotonous slog towards Walker Barn. I was too tiredto face Charity Lane and opted for the slightly longer but less hilly road route to Walker Barn. On reaching Walker Barn at 47 miles and only 9 miles left to run I worked out that a sub 10 hour time wasn't really possible. I was far from bothered, it took any pressure off the last few stages. The last thing I wanted to be doing was bombing down the Middlewood Way touch and go for sub 10, I was simply too tired for the effort today. As we arrived at Walker Barn, Steve Temple was just leaving. I hadn't seen Steve since Edale some 29 miles earlier (and I didn't see him again until the finish!) I donned my leggins which usually gives me a couple of miles respite from leg strain and we shuffled on to Whiteley Green stealing through the lanes and passageways of Bollington using local knowledge. By Whiteley Green at 51 miles I was pretty tired and encouraged Julian to run on, despite his 800 mile cycling epic he was running stronger than I and I watched his headlamp disappear down the disused railway track.
|Finish 10:19, high five Trev!|
|Geoff Pettengell runs home topless|
Many thanks to the organisers and volunteers especially the check point staff and congratulations to all who completed the event especially those who walked through the night and took the best part of the allowed 24 hours to complete the event. Next year's Bullock Smithy will no doubt take place on the first full weekend in September. Me? never again....well perhaps one more....