13 February 2011

Wadsworth Trog

Race report from Leechyboy:

Four men,Yorkshire.
We stood by the car enjoying a sip of Chateau de Chiserly from a cardboard carton while reflecting on a grand race. Similar in stats to That’s Lythe, GPS measuring it at 21.4 miles and an estimated 4,000 climb - but moorland trods are a very different kind of running to the familiar tracks and mainly firm footing of Lythe.

The day began at 6:45, the alarm sounding half an hour before I went to bed. Steve Obediah Jeffs collected me (John Gessiah Leech), Dave Etheidwithas Deason and Jarv Zipporahs Jarvis for the two hour drive to Chiserly above Hebden Bridge to take on the Wadsworth Trog once more.

Discussion in the car hinted that the race would not be a stroll in the park. Heavy snow two years ago made the Walsh stud navigation method rather easy, though heavy going under foot. Then last year think fog made any kind of nav a problem, especially for runners new to the course. As we approached Hebden Bridge, Etheidwithas’ face showed some apprehension, deja vu - despite a clear forecast, thick fog was all around. With time to spare before the start we were soon appreciating the hospitality of the Calder Vale, tea, coffee, bickies, bananas and tangerines aplenty. The organisation, marshalling and refreshments throughout the day were top notch.

Time to gather at the start and the weather had a treat in store for us, the fog lifted as the race began - as far as I know a unique downhill start descending for some distance before any hint of a rise. My clothing choice for a warm top and cold legs soon led to removing outer layers, way overdressed for the gradual climb to the moors now that the cooling fog had lifted. Steve comfortably eased past me on the first climb, slowly stretching away over the next few checkpoints until I could no longer see him in the distance. Once on the open moor it became apparent that this years complication was the amount of water on the ground. Peat moorland, tussocky grass and deceptively deep puddles made going tough, long open sections across the tops needing careful foot placement and frequent dips into mud anywhere between ankle and thigh deep - the kind of bogs where you can easily lose a shoe, but may well come up with a better pair.

The route twists and turns, several checkpoint being common to both the outward and return sections of the circuit. Higher sections are on narrow trods on vast featureless open moorland, a form of sensory depravation making any boulder formations or ancient ruins a welcome sight. Half way is marked by a loop around the back of a rare landmark, Withins ruin (thought to be the inspiration for a building in Wuthering Heights), runners passing each other on this short spur from the main path. It seemed strange that Steve and I crossed over at the exact same point as our previous Trog. This is one of about 4 checkpoints where the marshals have laid on drinks and biscuits - a brief pause to throw a cup of liquid down my neck and grab a bicky to top up energy levels on the move. On returning to the main track I looked for Dave and Jarv, but the field was well stretched, no familiar faces in sight.

From half way there’s a fast section on stone slabs familiar to this part of the Pennines - anyone who has done the relays will likely have run similar. Today they were well greased, but preferable to the energy absorbing soft ground to either side. I was feeling quite good and pushed on passing a few runners before slowing to a crawl for the following climb and watching several stroll on by. Linking up with a tall guy in yellow who I’d been tangoing with for the past few miles on the moor, we chatted for a mile or two which kept us both going quite well, making up more places. Steve came into view, on the climbs he was still strong and pulling away, on levels and downs I was closing. We ran together for a short section, Steve was getting cramping twinges that were slowing him down so I pushed on, keen to improve on my previous Trog performance.

More climbing - the merest upward slope reducing me to walking pace. I looked over my shoulder at a style, and Steve was right behind me! With 3 checkpoints to go the route has two long sections through difficult terrain. Runners were clearly feeling the pain and I passed a number who were starting to look a bit wobbly! From the final peak the route is well flagged. I’d been last to this summit 2 years ago, but made up for it with a spirited run home regaining a handful of places. Not this time, having pushed harder in the mid sections I didn’t have much left to offer. I concentrated on a smooth efficient stride to take me down the hill, wary of cramp setting in. A particularly memorable section went through the muddiest field on the planet the contents of which was surely from the devil’s own slurry pit. At one point a big green eye appeared and winked at me, then a flat footed step caused a arm of ‘mud’ to reach up and grab me, fortunately only making it as high as my knee.

Whoever designed this route is fiendish. The long descent is rewarded by possibly the steepest climbs of the race, I was soon aware of runners closing behind. I gave the engines all I had, but couldn’t manage warp speed - one guy passing me just as the slope started to ease. But there was still shallow climb to the end, with nothing left in the tank I resorted to speed walking the end of the climb in the hope that anyone digging deep to pass me at that stage would then have no speed left for a final sprint, a lap of the cricket pitch. This must make for some exciting finishes, though this time I was relieved to be in space with no pressure to attack or defend.

Steve followed within 5 minutes. A mug of hot soup with bread roll, more tea and an array of buns served up by someone’s granny. Why do cakes taste better when someone’s granny serves them? We had no idea of the gap to Dave and Jarv - so while replenishing reserves we missed Dave sneaking in about 20 mins later. He’d run the first half with Jarv, but said Jarv was suffering! The Trog is a course you have to experience to understand, and Jarv’s baptism was in very heavy conditions. The three of us stood by the pavilion and cheered him round that final lap of the pitch.

My first official solo race as a V50... and I managed to shave 30 minutes off my V40 time. Eeee, there’s life in the old dog yet.

And try telling that to the young folk of today - and they won’t believe you.

Link to Results