High Peak 40 – If ever I see another Jaffa cake it will be too soon.
So after the razzmatazz of the Lakeland 50 my next outing, The High Peak 40 challenge was a bit different. It’s a much more low key ultra, one of those “pointless LDWA type events where you just turn up with a fiver and a Flapjack” for those of you that have seen Ultra Runner vs. Ironman on YouTube.
Of course we all love these events; they are the bread and butter of ultra running. I have done a few “pointless LDWA events” before I started blogging and they have there own charm and offer some quite unique challenges and there is nothing pointless about the Dorset Doddle I can tell you or the 3 Rings of Shap for that matter. They are in my experience really well organised and of course they don’t get any shorter or easier for there low key-ness. You could even claim it might make them harder, being clapped and cheered through the towns and villagers of the Lake District for example certainly spurred me on in the L50 and my pace along Ambleside high street increases with every telling of the story. Anyway back to the HP40.
So what had I let my self in for this time? The HP40 is and yes the clue is in the name a 40 mile
Jaffa cake eating challenge walk/run that is rumoured to be 41 and a bit miles, that stretchy race directors tape measure again with about 1500 meters of accents and decent. It starts in the rather lovely town of Buxton, with a route that leaves the pavilion gardens and winds round and over the western peak district. Going via the Goyt Valley, round Chapel en le Frith, over the Roych and Mam Tor to Castleton, before heading in to the White Peak down to Tideswell on to Monsel Dale and back to Buxton.
After managing an early escape from the office to avoid the usual Friday traffic nightmare in Nottingham, I headed for Buxton through thick mist which once on the A515 had visibility down to 50 meters in places. This could be interesting. I fortunately arrived in time for a last minute gear purchase from Jo Royals and a quick bit of Food Shopping. Mmm I eye some pork pies nah I’ll leave those I’ll be good. Oh how I will rue that particular decision. The evening was supposed to be spent with a gentle recce of the end of the race, as there is nothing worse than trying to use an OS map to navigate trough a town probably in the dark, probably in the rain when your knackered and getting lost with 2 km to go will really ruin your day! However it was a rather damp misty evening and the Pub/packing kit/food/B&B/repacking kit was all calling. So the recce was limited to finding the School where the race registration was because if there is one thing worse than getting lost at the end it not being able to find the registration/start. It also transpires that the B&B which I had selected at random the delightful Roseleigh Hotel was effectively also one end of the start line so I could wait in comfort for the start. Highly recommend this place if you in Buxton. www.roseleighhotel.co.uk
I was feeling much happier about this race than I did with the Lakeland 50. Yes there were a few nerves, 40 miles is a long way after all. Preparation had been less the Ideal/non existent for a change just a couple of long ish trail runs and the bike commute and praying I’m still feeling the benefit of the diet but there was none of the fear of last time. I was nervous that knowing sort of what I am potentially capable of this time would mean it wouldn’t be as much fun. Granted I may never repeat the incredible experience at the Lakeland 50. One simply does not turn up 3 hours earlier than expected on every ultra. But I was confident that I would finish by hook or by crook.
Saturday morning dawned (some time after I had got up) Grey and damp but not cold It was rather muggy or basically Yuk. I was fuelled by the B&B’s “take away” breakfast which was a great spread and enabled me to make some marmalade Sandwiches which felt rather appropriate as there was a giant Paddington Bear sat in the Guest lounge. Once feed it was off to registration which was a very rapid affair
Morning, Name? Martin. No Last Name? Yes Martin. Oh sorry errr Richard? Yes. 107. Thanks. Pack with Race Number, t-Shirt, cloth badge and free cliff bar duly handed over.
It was a quick pining on of the number wander back to put the t-shirt in the car and wait for the start with Paddington. As the runners started to gather I nip out of the B&B and shortly thereafter was a whistle and a chap stood on a bench for the race briefing. Which I don’t think was heard more than 3 rows back. I did get something about the 28th running…. Enjoy your selves….. Pink arrows….. Close gates…… and then with minimal fanfare we were off.
It’s a nice steady jog round the park before heading out on to the A53 and a steady uphill away from Buxton. I walk up the Hill next to some one who’s running but not faster than I was walking, now the race thins out as we head on up the long hill before heading over in to the Goyt Valley. It’s a step pull up the road and through some woods to a stile which has a bit of a queue. Once negotiated we’re on to the moors with pink arrows pointing the way down to the disused railway the view from here would have been lovely if I could have seen it. Along here I fell in with a few runners who I’d continue bumping in to till the end having the usual chat about what you have done, what they have do is this your first HP40 or are you a vet?, I ended up running with Jules from Norfolk for several checkpoints, Check point one arrives earlier than expected. 3 miles down.
My tally card is clipped, we jog on down to Fernlee res and I allow my self to be towed along the flat track at Jules’s pace which while just a gentle jog is faster than I would normally go usually just walking stretches like this. I decide this is OK we’ll see how it goes, we drop down past the first and second dams on to the riverside trail before a pink arrow points us away from the river to check point two. I start to have some problems with my heels at this point but ignore this and press on. Why did I wear these shoes they always catch? Tally clipped and on we go this leg starts the first of the climbs as we go over a little ridge then a bigger one before a long pull up to Eccles Pike sadly no cakes available. Jules pulls away on a break and I walk up with Patrick who turns out to be the obligatory “hard as nails pensioner” having complete 23 high peak 40’s at lease one 1 Marathon des Sables and a few Augrabies extreme marathons across the Kalahari Desert and Grand Union Canal race or 2 for good measure, a very interesting chap indeed. We arrive at CP 3 at Digleach Farm 9 miles down and the first of the Jaffa cakes.
I haven’t had Jaffa cakes in ages so a hand full is swiped water bottle refilled and we’re off. I contemplate how odd ultra running is as I jog down hill eating as normally this would just make me throw up but not today. We have regrouped as a 3 by Chapel as I reel Patrick in and we reel in Jules. A passing motorist asks are we doing the 40? We confirm and are told were doing really well. We pass under the railway and past the former home of a Dam buster’s pilot and up towards Beet Farm Check Point 4.
More Jaffa Cakes and Bananas. From here the route starts to get a bit more exposed heading up in to the Roych from which there should have been some lovely views but we are still clagged in. On the decent in to Roych Clough I leave Patrick behind and climbing out catch and pass Jules who was not to be seen again, but finished about 15 mins behind me. Check Point 5 at 14 miles is reached and its Banana time. As the marshal fills my bottle he mentions I look like I’ve been for a swim, it’s been a bit warm I say. I could murder a ham sandwich.
Lets play dodge the mountain biker! Rushup edge is very much mountain bikers country and I dodge a few enjoying the excellent decent that we’re travelling up. Finally splitting from the bridleway I now get to terrorise some DofE groups. Oh how I remember cursing those pesky fell runners with their tiny packs flying past as I struggled under a huge DofE pack. Now I do the same I’m sure I should feel guilty but I’m not, its character building for them! I catch up with a chap from Stoke who is smoking a roll up while running, different I think and we have a quick chat until I push on. Despite the dull weather Mam Tor is busy so its time for the Great Ridge tourist slalom I weave my way past the crowds to Hollins Cross and a decent rather more technical than I remember down to Castleton and Check Point 6, 19 miles and more you guessed it Jaffa Cakes and some fig rolls. If only I had brought those pork pies…….
More tourist slalom on the way to the village centre, and some P#@K on a mountain bike screaming at people to get out the way. Time for Cave Dale. The steep limestone gorge cum dale that is the stuff of runners nightmares as a Walker/Runner I dig out the poles and rattle up in 4 wheel drive passing one or two people on the way once out of cave dale it’s a long drag over Old Moor and Bradwell Moor this is a lot flatter than I remember……. Que a little bit of a downer. I had it in my head that I could jog down hill from here all the way to Tideswell Dale. But the route is not really that down hill and with 20 miles already in the legs in a fairly quick time it doesn’t feel that runable, there are some distinctly flat bits and even some that are suspiciously like up hill. I arrive at check point 7 at the wonderfully named Bushy Heath Farm after 23 miles in a rather grumpy frame of mind to find more Jaffa cakes which I am starting to tire of but mercifully some TUC Crackers provide something vaguely savoury. I also get over taken by people I over took on the way up Cave Dale. Gerrrr I do manage (I hope) to keep my grumpiness to my self ensure a polite thank you to the Marshalls (Always be nice to the Marshalls it’s the law) before heading off to find the rest of the decent to Tideswell is not really that down hill either with some distinctly flat bits as well. I play leap frog with a runner through the town but a quick comfort break sees him out of sight.
I try to keep jogging but as I approach 26 miles the spring is lacking form my step and the Jogging bits are getting shorter and hurt as the feet start to feel sore underneath. This course has a lot of road and track in it which makes it hard going. My heels are rubbing and I curse not re-taping them I resolve to give them some TLC at the next check point. I arrive at the checkpoint 8 which marks a marathon distance feeling pretty sorry for my self, to find more Bloody Jaffa cakes and flap jack. I am asked if I have seen No.40 by one lady, apparently he’s been suffering from extreme joggers nipple and now has red stripes on what should have been a plain white t-shirt ouch (Ultra runners 101. If you feel rubbish then some one will feel worse). I feel a bit bewildered by numbers here and neglect to do anything about my feet and carry on in to Tideswell dale and even the giant hedgehog doesn’t make me smile. I’m now 6 hours in which is a PB from a marathon but pushing earlier on is catching up with me I attempt to jog some slight down hills but my legs are having non of it. I trudge sore footed down the dale and contemplate the 14 mile march of doom to the end. This one of the most picturesque parts of the Peak District but is all rather lost on me.
I then give my self a metaphorical slap and try to take this race by the scruff of the neck time for Plan G. Some one said if you’re feeling grumpy on an ultra then eat yourself happy. What food have I got a Clif bar? Uugghh no, Jelly Babies! Result half a pack later I feel a little happier and resolve to “rest” by walking all of this leg to the next check point and go again from there. So on I march. I’m over taken again but so what. Heading in to Cressbrook still munching Jelly Babies I resolve to finally sort my feet out I pass the 2 lads that had over took me while they have a Kodak moment, only for them to over take me again we exchange pleasantries and I warn them “first one in buys the beers” which I think I may regret as I catch them as we join the Monsel trail and point them in the right direction as there is a pink arrow failure at this point and the obvious way back to Buxton is not our route off they jog and I march on finally finding a suitable perch at Cressbrook Halt to apply some TLC to my feet finding some holes in my heels and a blister at the base of my big toe. Fresh socks and powder are a bit too little too late but it improves things for now inn my head at least and two ladies ask if I’m OK as they pass me. Shoes back on and were off to the next check point which I am assured is just around the corner by several passing cyclists. Check point 8 and the 29 mile point are indeed there. With more Jaffa cakes and flap jack I force some down I really really want a ham sandwich or one of those pork pies I didn’t buy. In fact anything savoury and I am caught by No.40 complete with bloodied shirt but not passed. This is 29 miles in about 7 hours. I can now be a Royal Marine if I complete the next mile in under an hour! Ok I can’t
Despite mild Jaffa cake poisoning I feel more positive, having a chat with the marshal’s and manage a jog from the viaduct down to the valley floor and the occasional jog down some of the more undulating bits of path to the A6 and head in to Deep Dale 1 which is taken in 4 wheel drive. It’s a long plod up a steady hill, one which tortures those at the front. At the top is Checkpoint 9 I’m informed I am 125th and there are more Jaffa cakes and flap jack oh I hate Jaffa cakes. Mrs No.40 form CP 6 is there, she asks how far behind No. 40 is. As I leave there is a figure appearing it not No.40 its Patrick…
Ah I thought I would be seeing him again… Now it’s the road stretch………. 3 miles of tarmac that is die straight but undulating with each crest revealing a bit more straight road. One blog I read said brace yourself, I think they had a point. I turn off my mind apart from the bit that looks for pink arrows and I manage to jog the bigger downs at the crest of one bump I can see someone in front and set my mind on catching the 2 ladies in front of him and try keeping Patrick from over taking me. Finally I see pink and the arrow points down the hill to Chelmorton I am also cheered up by the sight of a passing group of lady mountain bikers. Mind switched back on I realise that this is suitably down hill for a jog which takes me painfully down in to the village. I hear the foot steps behind me as I start the track out of the village, the wily old fox has caught me up. I knew he would. We start to close down on the chap in front and as the track starts to dip Patrick jogs off as I plod on now resigned to walking … Bugger 126th… there is an interesting moment as a herd of cows attempts a pincer movement on me but I get away over the Stile the next runner wasn’t so lucky and end ended up hoping over a barbed wire fence to get away. Ah there is Deep Dale 2 I have heard much about this mythical chasm which is like a cruel joke form god at this point. You can see the check point in the distance but this little beauty is hidden until you reach the lip, what I hadn’t heard is that you could abseil in to it! It feels hideously steep and exposed the path is little more than a boots width and is slippery mud covered slippery limestone oh joy! While I was prepared for a moral sapping down and up I wasn’t quite prepared for this with jellied legs I carefully pick my way down maintaining 5 points of contact on occasion and fortunately safely reach the bottom. And then up the steep but far friendlier other side and to the check point 38 miles done Deep Dale has bunched us up and I arrive just behind the 2 ladies, Patrick and the other chap. I discuss savoury food with one of the Marshalls. I leave the check point as some one suggests it’s just a park run to go……
I clamber over the stile and every one has shot off….. Bugger I plough on up through Cowdale and up the last hill to Staden Low. A glance over my shoulder reveals 2 runners approaching quickly. Arse! Past the promised house with fair ground rides and boom I can see the Viaduct that signals the end is nigh. As I try a painful hobble of a run down the hill to the final field but it’s not really happening and as I reach the viaduct I am over taken by the 2, a runner with a pacer which really pisses me off I dismissing them as cheats which makes me feel better even if it isn’t true. 127th I negotiate the A515 and across the fields, mind the underage drinkers in the wood, through the twitchel (lets see how many none Nottingham folk know what I am on about) and I can see the School. Final push, I run down the hill and up the Drive to a ripple of applause from the gathered few and hand shakes from those who finished just before me.
10:17:15 and actually 123rd where did the other 4 go?
No medals just a feeling of satisfaction. I head in to the canteen for Tea and Hot Sausage rolls I can’t face the cake and certainly not the Jaffa Cakes. I spent a pleasant hour chatting and drinking tea with the other chap, Patrick and an Irish chap from Oxford sharing past events, strategies and which races are the best. I decide its time for a shower and pull on a waterproof and head off for the 200 yard hobble back to the B&B within 20 yards I am reduced to a shivering wreck and with chattering teeth have to stop to dig out and extra layer which must have looked quite comic. Suitable attired I make it back before giving my self hypothermia
So that was that, it was an interesting experience as I pushed my self harder than before especially with the “quick” start but it was an experiment and despite my low from 20 to 30 miles and slightly pained march there after I did really enjoyed the challenge I suffered more than in the L50 but that’s all part of the challenge
My Name is Richard Martin and the more I think about the more I think I might be beginning to be an ultra runner.