The one with the Peak District Challenge

Posted on: 22 Oct 2019

Alarm went of at 4:30, Max was already up taping her feet and I tried to start eating. I always struggle in the morning and race day is no exception. I think I managed almost one cup of porridge and 2 bananas. That wouldn’t get me through the day but at least I had something in the tummy at the start. Everything takes much longer time than planned in the morning but finally we were back in the car and headed to Bakewell. We had planned to be there an hour before our start which was 6:45 but I thing it was around 6:15 when we got there. So only just time for a visit to the loo, one last kit check and then we headed to the start. I still wasn’t in the tracker so I asked the staff and they still thought I would pop up as I got scanned at the start. I doubted it but didn’t have time to argue. The weather was cool, I guess around 17-18 degrees and overcast so close to perfect weather. I finally decided to go in a t-shirt but had a long sleeve and a jacket in my backpack in case we would get rain. 

We were in the very first group that started, we had entered as joggers so it was us, the runners and some speedy walkers. The first bit was ok to jog but when it started to climb we walked. The first proper hill felt like it went on forever and I had trouble catching my breath and keep the pace. The poles was a great help though, they did so much for my posture so that made the breathing easier and that made the rest of the body happy. The woods here felt a bit like home, I don’t know why but they did. After the hill we went out through a few fields, made it over our first stiles “gangnam stiles”, and made our first (and only) wrong way. No worries, we just took another way over a field, just like the guys ahead of us. After that we made it towards first major sight Chatsworth House. As we entered the park we went through fields with sheep and there were so much poo! We couldn’t help but starting to sing “as we walk the fields of pooo” loud and clear. What must the people around us have thought? :D :D :D 

Chatsworth House, I knew nothing about it then, I have googled it since, but I also have forgotten the story. It was a nice house in a nice place. =) The views all around was stunning, even more beautiful than I had expected and that helped when the going got a bit tougher. 

After around 12 k we went through another field that seemed to be home to larger cattle, I was glad they weren’t there at that point, but suddenly people ahead of us started jumping around. It turned out to be a swamp-like place and everybody just started sinking in the mud and my feet got totally soaked since there were no way around it. Very glad I had dry socks in my pack since I already started to feel some blisters on my right foot. My shoes were almost new, I had done 3-4 runs in them before so I knew it could end up in a blister party down there.

The first section (Bakewell-Calver) was 14 km, I felt in control and it went quite well. We kept the pace we had planned and the weather was still very good. The first rest stop was a welcoming sight, I was a bit hungry and needed the loo. I had a plan on what to do and in which order so tried to be as effective as possible. There were lots to eat but I didn’t want to try too much new things so just had some fruit and a croissant. I also spoke to a marshall and finally he put me in the tracker. I wasn’t in there at all so he had to put all my information in there as a new runner, and finally I could be tracked! :D 

After sorting my feet, put on dry socks and refilled all the bottles and the bladder we headed out again. The feeling was that we were a bit slow at the stop but were going to try a shorter stop next time.

I brought another croissant with me on the go which I tried to eat as we walked the long hill after the rest stop but I felt a little nauseated so couldn’t eat it all. I hadn’t done any special practice on eating while moving so this was no surprise. And I had gels and other things in my pack that I knew I could take so I wasn’t worried. 

The next section (Calver-Tideswell) was 11 k, and the first bit was a lot of uphill. It was gravel path, larger gravel roads and tarmac road in the beginning. We passed people who were cutting sheep, oh the sound of that! We also talked to a guy who had colored his hair pink for the occasion, a nice fellow that we would have just ahead of us for most of the day. He was a walker but one of the speedier ones. Around 20 k we came out of the woods and got amazing views of the landscape again. So, so beautiful and what goes up must come down so we had a nice long downhill that we could jog, actually km 21 was the fastest one that I have on record from the day. 

The Peak District have a very proper name and the route was really going up and down a lot. Km 22 went down into a valley and then it was a brutal hill to get out of there, which took my breath away for a while as it lasted more or less 1 km. Then we could nearly hear Tideswell where the next rest stop was, we were greeted by church bells that just kept ringing. In to the rest stop, loo break, and lunch! I found a falafel wrap and a banana, the only thing I felt like eating at that point. Refill the bottles, make sure feet were ok, eat, drink, check the messenger thread for support and then we were of again. Not sure we were much faster than the previous stop, and I kept eating while we walked out of Tideswell. 

Again the way out of the rest stop was a long uphill section. I think we both got a little cold at the rest stop but once we got moving again it felt better. Still overcast, very grey weather but it was better than clear and sunshine in my opinion. We went on smaller roads now, lots of grass (an imaginary tick fest!), right through some fields and gravel roads. Not the easiest bits to run but we tried to plod on the flat and downhill bits, but the downhill wasn’t the easiest either because of stones and roots surfacing. 

After 30k we came down to Millers Dale and headed out for a short bit on the Monsal trail. Nice and flat here, lots of other people walking and cycling, a nice change from the deserted paths we had been on earlier. But we had learned one thing already, this was not an easy challenge so we understood that the nice flat bit would not be long. And we were so right. We went of the Monsal trail just by a bridge over the River Wye and headed down to a small, slippery path along the river instead. I almost slipped and slided into the water at least once but managed to stay on foot fortunately. Not easy to meet people on such small paths and the mud made it interesting. =) 

What came next almost made me stop. The contrast from the flat trail was brutal, to say the least. This was the hill of doom for sure. It was so challenging I don’t even took a picture of it haha. This was the first hill were I actually had to stop, catch my breath, and shake my legs a bit. Halfway to (what I thought) the top I looked behind me and it looked like a wall. If I hadn’t had my poles I probably would have had to crawl up, that’s how steep it felt. Of course Max powered up like a steam train and got a nice rest at the top waiting for me. The view from up there was great, of course, but man that was a hill to remember. 

After another path through a field with high grass we got out on proper roads again. It’s not often that you are happy about tarmac but at this point I was. Somewhere here my garmin started beeping about low battery, I had expected it to make it through at least 8 hours without problem so hadn’t brought my charger. Very disappointed about this and it finally died just after 33 k, when we reached Taddington Brewery. 

This road section was an easy bit, but my legs had started to hurt a lot at this point so I didn’t really manage to run the small inclines on the undulating road. The weather was also changing a bit, we both had drops of rain and sunshine at this part. Max was much stronger of course and she was a bit worried about the time since she had a long way to go still. We talked about her going ahead of me, as we had discussed beforehand, and made plans that she might go a bit faster from the next rest stop to the finish and maybe sort some food and things while waiting for me to finish, to get a little more effective stop at her halfway point. 

It felt like the road was going on forever, I suppose I was going a little low on energy at this point which didn’t make things any easier. But finally we came in to the village of Taddington where the rest stop was. I have never experienced a longer 12k than the ones between Tideswell and Taddington, I’ll tell you that. =) This rest stop had the pick-n-mix but I wasn’t in the mood for sweets so I stuck to my bananas, crisps and flat coke. Refill of the bottles and a little rest on a chair. We talked to a guy who was doing the 100k, he had started 2 hours after us so he was very speedy. He planned on finishing at halfway though, to make it home in time for rugby I think it was, because he was going slower than expected. Mindblowing haha. But the most interesting part was that he was doing the Ultravasan 90k so it wasn’t that important for him to finish this 100k. What are the odds that I meet a guy in Taddington that are doing Ultravasan? It made my day. =) 

When we left the rest stop it had started raining a little again, not enough to put on a jacket but still. We now had 14k left back to Bakewell (as far as we knew) where my finish was. I could do that! The first bit was road running, nice downhill bit which only hurt a little haha. First it was tarmac roads, then gravel for a bit and then we headed out in the greens again, through Deep Dale Nature Reserve. Stunning! It was a grassy path through the dale and a bit stony here and there so couldn’t really run, it was too risky and we didn’t want to fall at this point, so close to the finish. The sun also came out so it was a bit warm, but I didn’t mind very much. We made it back down to the River Wye again, and I made it into unchartered territory as we passed marathon distance! I was an ultra runner now!! Big boost at just the right point. Another boost was the ice cream truck that was standing there on a small parking lot, I wasn’t in the mood for ice cream but it made me happy anyway. 

Along the river it was nice and flat, it was a gravel path with some disturbing rocks but we managed to jog at least bits of it. We also ran past a small waterfall, so beautiful, so we had to stop for pictures. I was counting down in my head at this point, 8k left, 7k left, 6k left, distances that I knew I could do but it felt a very long way at that moment. I was starting to struggle big time, but Max stayed with me and spurred me on, I was so glad she stayed because she kept the pace up and made me run much more than I would have done on my own. As always, the flat bits didn’t last for long so when the beautiful Monsal Head Viaduct came in to view we were certain our path was not going under it, of course we were going up there. The path up was through high grass again and at the top we had to make an emergency stop to remove what could have been a tick from Max’s arm. 

The 45k sign was on the viaduct, 6 k left! I had read up before hand and knew we now had to follow the Monsal Trail the last bit in to Bakewell, which used to be a railway so it is dead flat for most parts. We also went through Headstone tunnel which was long and dark, and my eyes never got used to the light in there so it was a challenge to run because I couldn’t really see the ground properly. The light at the end was a very welcoming sight! Max went a head a little, feeling strong, and I just tried to keep her in sight haha. It was such a struggle, we wanted to get in under 10 hours, which looked possible at this point, if we just kept jogging as much as we could. After the tunnel I decided to go for it, I wanted that sub-10 hours finish, so I put the poles away, took the baton in my hand, put my head down and told Max to just run. I made deals with myself that I could walk by the kilometer-signs. 46 came and went, at 47 I had to take a picture because that was further than mum had run. =D 48 and Max sent a video to the messenger thread. 49, we must be close now! There it is, the 50k sign! That’s what I signed up for!

I knew it was to be 51 now but I could almost hear the finish now, at least in my head. We left the Monsal Trail which must mean we were close to Bakewell now, and Max speeded up but I couldn’t follow so kept my plodd instead. I didn’t mind at this point, I knew it was close now. Downhill and it hurt so bad! Kill me, kill me now, I’m f*cking dying here! There is the 51k sign, bloody hell, we are still a bit from the finish, I hate this! I want that medal and I want it now! I could see the white tents now, but I couldn’t see how I was supposed to get there. Just follow the arrows and it will be ok, it must be close. But no, another turn in what felt like the wrong direction, on a small lane and out on the gravel road we had started on this morning. And finally I saw an arrow pointing in the direction I wanted to go, now I have it! Out on the lumpy, grassy field, “don’t turn your ankle, don’t stumble and fall, just keep moving”. Without a watch I had no idea what the time was so I just kept moving. What a long way it was around that field. But finally, the finish was there and I made the very last turn in to the funnel that said FINISH! Yeeeeeeeeaaahhhh I made it! 

Lots of hugs, I got my well deserved medal, a glass of fizz which did not taste good at that point, and my t-shirt. I had done it, I was an ultra runner! The time was just over 10 hours, but then the course was also nearly 52 k. 

It was raining a little so we made it back to the car quite quick so Max could change clothes and all she had to do, while I just rested and tried to wrap my head around what I had just done. The rain got worse which was worrying for Max’s second half but at least all our gear was in the car so it was dry. I tried eating and drinking, just to keep my energy up, made sure Max had all she needed and then went with her back to the finish/rest stop area to send her on her way. I had one important task left before I could rest. 

In the letter from Kathy that I got with the baton there were a note that clearly stated “read this when you are alone, don’t let Max see this”. So curious but had to wait to have a moment to myself before I found out the plot twist of the weekend. The baton was not only for me this time, it was also to be carried by Max on her first 100k and I was to hand it over to her. I had this in my mind the whole day, I knew she might go ahead of me at some point but couldn’t let her too far ahead, I had to be there when she went out on the second half. One of many reasons I pushed it so hard during the day, to keep up with her and not slow her down too much. 

When she was ready to go I went live on FB to let you all see the handover, and explained what was happening. Her face was priceless. So the baton changed hands and I sent them on their way again, just couldn’t believe she was to run just as much as we had already done. I went to a tent to change in to dry clothes and then had some food. Couldn’t eat much though, I was still pretty tired and lacking of energy, I knew I had to eat but couldn’t force it too much. I saw the first finisher on the 100k, he came in about 30 mins after Max had left. Impressing performance!

I also saw one of our best supporters during the day, “Fries guy”. It was a guy who had a shirt that said something about Fries so that’s how he got his name. We saw him 4-5 times on the course as he was supporting some people who was just a little bit behind us all the way, and he always cheered us on with a smiley face. The only bad thing was that I wanted to eat fries everytime I saw him. I was really longing for a shower so I asked when the next shuttle back to Chesterfield was due and decided to go on it. I knew Max wouldn’t be back for at least 10-12 hours, depending of the terrain in the second half. 

I was so tired on the way back, and wasn’t sure I would make it off the shuttle after half an hour of sitting down. But to my great surprise I did, and I started the walk back to the hotel. It was uphill of course. =D I was starting to get hungry now, so decided to get food with me right away, so jumped into the first pizza place I found, and into coop to get more coke. 

I crashed right down on the sofa in the room, turned on the tv (pointless was on, my favourite!) and had my pizza. It was sooooo good. I could feel the energy come back to me, and started to feel quite good, at least better than expected. And that warm shower was great, only some chaffing in new interesting places, but I guess you must expect that after 10 hours. I was tired but I knew I had to get back to Bakewell before it got too late, and knew if I fell asleep in the hotel I probably would sleep all night and miss Max’s finish. That couldn’t happen so I asked the hotel to call me a taxi. 

I was back in Bakewell around 10:30pm, a nice ride with the taxi driver who told me all about his life, his divorce, his ex-wife, his kids, work and you name it. Smashing sunset on the way, but couldn’t get a picture of that unfortunately. 

It was a bit quiet around the finish at this point, some people were finishing or hitting the halfway point, some were in the food tent, but not much happened. I cheered some people in to their finish, drank a lot of tea (it was a bit chilly and I couldn’t find my gloves), and just hung around. Spoke to a lady who had finished the 100k, she had done many ultra challenges, very impressive. I also saw pink hair guy finish, the one we had company with earlier in the day.  

I was really tired and my brain had a lot to process so I went to find a quiet place to rest for a while and found a tent for exactly that purpose. They had sleeping mats and it was empty so I took the best spot in a corner. I had good company from the buzzers on messenger, so nothing to worry about me! I also managed about 30 mins sleep, before people started to come in to the tent making noise. Not a lot but enough to wake me up. One guy wrapped himself in one of those space blankets, what a brilliant idea, I was freezing so did the same thing. Nice and warm and I rested for some more time before I had to go to the loo. All that tea… Max kept us updated here and there, so I knew I had some time to wait. Hung around the finish area for a while but then headed to the car instead, to try and get some more sleep. I was totally exhausted but couldn’t really sleep anyway. Just after 6am I got the message she was at 98k, struggling but moving forwards. I decided to go and meet her so plodded away over the field, the grass was wet and I soaked my feet. I walked to the sign that said 99k, I had a good view so could see anyone coming. There were some people walking, and some people running with an amazing pace. And finally she came around the corner! Lots of hugs, she would finish this! I walked with her the last bit, just left to get on the right side of the finish line to be able to film it. 

It was so special to share this moment with Max, we both went further than we had ever done before, and we did it in support of each other. 

Max had some rest before we drove back to Chesterfield for the last time this weekend, I do not recommend driving after being awake for 27 hours but we made it back safely. I was starving again, so I went to have breakfast while Max took a bath. After about 10 pancakes I was soo sleepy again so headed back to the room (my pockets full of hash browns for Max). I was just going to lay down a little while she was getting ready in the bathroom but I fell asleep like a log. I don’t think anything could have woken me up at that point. 

What a day we had had. I woke up again around lunch I think. We had plans to go to a spa but none of us felt like it so we took it slow and then went out to get food again. So hungry again, hahaha. I think we ate all the food in Chesterfield on Sunday and Monday morning. We took our refueling very seriously haha. On Monday it was time to make our way back south again, Max to go home and I was heading to Dover. The journey was nice, still lots to talk about and I held the baton all the way back to London. =D 

It was quite late before I was in Dover, the train ride from London went well, but I didn’t pay for high speed train so it took some time. At the hotel I was of course hungry again so had a late dinner there at 10pm. And as I sat down with my celebratory bubbles it was like the circle closed as the music playing was “Fields of gold”, or as we now call it, “Fields of poo”. You can’t make this up haha. 

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