This weekend I completed the tour of Pendle, the route covers 16.8 miles with 4833 ft of ascent and it’s an AL category fell race. So how did I end up doing this race after only two years of running pretty averagely? Let me explain...
In March this year I did the Stan Bradshaw race (formerly Half Tour of Pendle) and at the end I was knackered but vowed that one day I would do the full Tour - I put it on my 2018 to do list. At Trawden Beer Festival I moved it forward to 2017 because I was really drunk and had no idea what I was talking about. The day after and with the hangover from hell it went back to the 2018 wish list. That was the end of the Tour talk for a good few months.
I had a few goals in mind to keep me going over summer but unfortunately in April I had an injury and literally all my planned races did not happen. This was a crappy time but I started to really think outside the box with my training and found that after the injury I came back fitter after adding lots of strengthening and conditioning exercises. I had also been taking myself off on different jogs, walks and map reading with the goal of getting my head around planning routes (Mr Stobbs I hope you are proud).
When I started racing again my times had improved massively and I was able to get a few PBs. I was mainly only running off road because I was finding it helped the small niggles. I was enjoying running at the weekend taking myself off up Pendle and Boulsworth without much of a panic of thinking I was going to get lost, the miles were nothing major and I was just enjoying running again.
In September while at the finish line of the Great North Run waiting for my other half, Adam mentioned that he fancied doing the Tour with someone in the club who lacked experience and confidence to do it alone. To be honest at the time I didn’t think for one minute that on 17th October I would have a mental block that this race was hard and I would ask if I could be that person, but I did and he was happy to help me around.
We obviously had loads of plans to train up to the event but this never happened, coordinating times was near impossible. I did manage a recce run of the second half of the tour with Fionnuala, Ruth and Lucy. A couple of days later me and Lucy did the first half. I decided putting both halves together was a pointless idea this late in the game and ignorance was bliss.
The week before the race was an emotional roller-coaster for me. November is a difficult time for me personally and I had a number of ‘I can’t do this’ moments. The Wednesday before the race I felt a massive burden lift and my mind set returned thanks to a few pep talks by some friends. Thanks :)
Race day started early, I woke up at stupid o’clock because I had the inability to sleep beyond 5.30am all week. I set off and arrived at Barley village car park by 9am, Kerrie-Anne and Adam were already registered. We all went back to registration where I collected my number and T-shirt. It was tempting to just get in my car and go home after collecting the shirt but I resisted!
With 1.5 hours to wait until the start this was the longest build up to a race ever. What followed were lots of loo breaks, some food and general chit-chat. Adam said we were starting near the front and I gave a look of horror. I always start near the back, I’m a fell jogger not runner. Anyway luckily I needed to pee for the sixth time just before the start and by the time I came back out, the mass of runners were already in place so starting near the front was no longer happening. We managed to squeeze a bit further forward than the back so everyone was happy.
The first half was fairly uneventful apart from a rabbit hole fall, not me I would like to add: Adam was stood waiting for me, walked backwards and fell over, kinda wish I could of caught it on camera. I, on the other hand, was deadly serious, I just wanted to meet the cut-off time at Geronimo. Being sent back to registration at CP4 would have broken me! I really can’t stand setting myself up to fail but the thought crossed my mind a few times. Finally we arrived at Geronimo at around 1 hour 45 minutes, it took me 8 minutes 25 seconds to descend it and that was with the help of fell expert Adam telling me where to go. Descending is my biggest weakness and I have so much work to do around my confidence.
As we approached CP4, Joanne was stood with her camera and she looked cold. I am glad she braved the cold as her photo is the only one I have from the race. So thanks for nearly freezing to death Joanne!
Adam then reminded me this was a race with a statement along the lines of ‘this is when the race starts’. Cue a massive meltdown in my head, lots of silence and another head wobble - I think I hid it well from him. I decided to try and eat something and have a drink, I should have been pushing on at this stage but instead I was milling over in my head if I should turn back. Luckily the boost bar and water kicked in and I got a grip again.
We descended (slowly) down to CP5 and the third climb of the day. It was at this point I looked back for the first time. Not many runners were left so we were near that back. I have never done a race with a cut-off and to be honest I didn’t even think about how I would be the back person meeting the cut-off with 15 minutes to spare. I suppose this was a bit disheartening but the race itself is so tough finishing was going to be an achievement.
By the fourth climb things got hard. I felt sick and clearly had not taken on enough food or drink. No need to worry though with Adam around, a drink of strong Vimto became my best friend for the final miles. Having never run further than 14 miles I was entering the unknown. I had no idea how I would cope, it was at this point that it became obvious I should have waited another year before entering. No point in dwelling I was given the opportunity to do this and I was finishing.
CP6-7 another painfully slow muddy descent and at this point Mr University started talking about triangle theories?! Yeah I know, all sounds very educational. So the 'secret' triangle theory of descents is as follows...trust your shoes, trust the ground, trust yourself. I know now that this theory will be on my mind for every descent on every run I do in the future. All that talk of theories made me cold and I lost three places putting my coat on because it was bloody freezing. The fifth and final climb was looming and I can honestly say CPs 9 and 10 were a blur!
Totally lacking in energy and balance I started to crawl up the Big End. At this stage Adam had to resort to grabbing my back pack and pulling me up. On reflection it reminded me of the stage when your toddler is still unsteady with walking, you put them in reins and they keep face planting the floor so you drag them back up. On further reflection I now realise I had HIT THE WALL.
I have never been so pleased to see the stile at the top. Some flapjacks at CP10 were left so I grabbed one and it was all downhill to the finish. I don’t think I stopped talking all the way back and again talking about the next challenge. I needed reminding that this was a race and the two blokes in front of us were a target to pass which we did. On the final stretch the TAC support came out in force first off Ruth and Joanne, then Claire and Craig, then Mick and then Kerrie. I crossed the finish line and the relief and achievement was like no other. Hugs all round and I shed a couple of tears then got a grip!
Entering the Tour 12 months earlier than planned was a mad idea but thanks to the help of Adam it was not unrealistic, I can’t thank him enough. Doing it alone would of been stupid. I was never going to finish in a fantastic time but this was not really about that. I entered because life is short and having a stupid goal to achieve keeps things interesting.
The race was hard but I know this time next year all being well I will be completing it again with much more experience and improved confidence/technique. Obviously thinking about that 'triangle theory' all the way and with a massive drink of Vimto in my back pack.
Just two years ago I completed Couch to 5K with some crappy trainers, no watch and no idea what Strava was. Two years later I gave this a go and it worked out well. So enter the race and take the risk and if you are not sure ask club members for some help. That’s why we are in a club and that the best thing about Trawden is everyone is willing to help.