Hmm, OK I must admit I hadn’t intended to not post for so long. It’s been a weird year to date anyway, and with the advancement of the Coronavirus moving rapidly worldwide 2020 is no doubt going to continue on a trajectory of unknown angle or force.
Winter training for Cyprus
To date, I should have run 6 races this year, but I’ve actually only run…… NONE.
The more recent ones were cancelled due to the virus, the weather took out a couple more. And other clashing commitments took out the rest. Training has been patchy at best, with a good winter start followed by several weeks of not doing very much due to other things going on. My parkrun streak stopped whilst I was away helping on The Spine Race and whilst I picked up again once I was back, my last parkrun was at the beginning of February. And with the parkrun suspension in place who knows when the next one will be!
Anyway, the (patchy) training was all directed towards my Spring-time races out in Cyprus. You’ll remember I did both Pafos and Limassol half-marathons in 2019. 2020 was going to be the year when I’d decided to run one final road marathon – Pafos. And whilst I know I’ve said previously that I wasn’t going to do another one, there’s always been that un-scratched itch of never having done an international road marathon.
Friday 13th March came, which was the date I was supposed to be flying out. But things were getting seriously serious in Cyprus. The Cypriot authorities had already banned all events on the island due to the Coronavirus. That meant that there would be no races going ahead anywhere on the island.
I wondered even if I got there, would I spend the whole holiday in quarantine? And then would I get home again anytime soon? In the end my eager-to-please anxiety stepped in with a major panic attack and as a result I didn’t even leave the house! In retrospect, it was almost certainly the right decision as the restrictions in Cyprus increased rapidly over the next couple of days. Whilst I might have had a few days of sun I know I’d have been worrying about getting home.
The net result was having 10 days off to do running things. Although the reality is that as nobody can go on holiday anywhere now, my pet sitting services aren’t exactly in demand, so I’m not going to be doing much working either until I find some temporary employment to keep the cat in the lifestyle he’s accustomed to!
So having started the post on a down-beat note, I thought I’d tell you about the running I’ve managed to do. I’ll do this over a couple of posts otherwise you’ll need several cups of tea to get through it all. The likelihood is over time that there may be increasing restrictions and thus opportunities to get outside may become limited. So I was keen to enjoy a few days of fairly reasonable weather, out in the hills.
Friday 13th – Kinder Plateau
Having managed to get my head back together after the attack I decided what I needed to do was to get out of the house and find a mountain to run up. And whilst we don’t have a huge selection of mountains, we do have the Peak District National Park with Kinder only being about 10 miles from home. So the bag was packed and off I went.
The plan was initially to run up to Edale Cross from Hayfield, but that plan was discarded almost before I got out of the car.
As I pulled up into Hayfield for some reason I had a desire to run up to Lantern Pike, which is one of the more local peaks, but at the opposite side of Kinder to Edale Cross. I’ve not run up there for ages, I think last time was probably the Kinder Trog race back in June 2018. I left the road too early following the wrong footpath and as such took a slightly circuitous but found the right path part way.
Down from the Pike and I couldn’t remember the exact route to get to Mill Hill so tried several, eventually settling on the wrong one… No great issue as again there were plenty of paths to get me to the desired one. And hey, I wasn’t in a rush. There were plenty of hikers out as well (so much for self isolation) and it felt good to get onto the Kinder Plateau and take in the views across the plains below.
Being as we’ve had rain recently and that it was a nice day, the Kinder Downfall was doing just that. Something of a novelty as the last few times I’ve crossed it it’s either been bone dry, or blowing back upwards on itself!
The trip from the Downfall to the trig point on Kinder Low was pretty uneventful. Plenty of people out walking which was a bit unusual given it was a Friday (and the impact of the Coronavirus hadn’t started in the UK at that point). I was conscious the path up to the trig was easily missed; it’s a point that plenty of people go wrong on the fell races on Kinder. Anyway, I didn’t see the path split itself but I realised almost immediately that I must have missed it, and scrambled back up to where I should be, on a path that clearly others had done the same before me!
The trig was busy with people stood taking photographs, but I was in self-isolate mode and passed them with a wide berth before heading off along the flagged path. I’d already decided that I didn’t want to do the rest of the Kinder Trog route itself. Partly because I couldn’t remember the route to get me over towards South Head. So instead I decided to follow the second part of the Downfall race route which took me down to Edale Cross (turns out on looking that both routes get to this point) and then down the bridleway back towards Hayfield. I knew I only needed to stay on the ankle-breaking descent for a short time before joining a different footpath to take another small climb before a rapid descent towards the camp site in Hayfield.
This rapid descent covers a number of grassy fields and I remember hurtling down them during the race and thinking the finish was right at the bottom – and then realising having gone hell for leather and passing a load of people that I still had another mile to go! Being re-overtaken wasn’t a worry today as I was alone and in much less grippy trail shoes. No, staying upright was a far more immediate concern as the ground was very muddy and wet underfoot!
I had another blank at the bottom of the field section as to the route, but followed my instincts to get to the camp site, after which it was a straightforward jog back to the car. 13.2 miles and 2600ft of climb in total.
The trick worked, most of the anxiety from the morning had at least retreated back from the forefront of my thoughts.
Saturday 14th – Hayfield to Edale
The run yesterday had really taken it out of me. I say ‘the run’ but it really was the combination of that and the episode prior to it. I never understood how much energy was expended during a panic attack until I was ill in 2015. Since then I’ve learned to accept that they are tiring and to not feel bad about being lethargic afterwards; it’s simply a by-product of it all, and one I’m not aware of a solution to.
By early afternoon however I was feeling the anxiety trying to come in for round 2, and this spurred me on to getting out my trail shoes again and heading back to Hayfield. Having spurned the Edale Cross reps workout yesterday, I decided that it might be one to try out. After all I wanted hills and elevation, along with a technical aspect to the trail.
Hayfield was noticeably busier being the weekend, and I seemed to be passing walkers all over the place as I headed out back towards the camp site and towards Kinder again. One thing was apparent, aside from the steady climb from the get-go. I was knackered! Yesterday’s antics had taken a lot out of me and recovery was what should have been on today’s menu, were it not for my annoying broken head.
But, there was no agenda, no rush. And coupled with the new idea of heading beyond Edale Cross and along the Pennine Way into Edale, I could get a coffee and cake at the Penny Pot. The weather wasn’t great, but it was forecast dry (at least until late afternoon) and so with the newly found purpose in cake I left the tarmac road and started on the rocky bridleway.
One thing that helped this time around was that I new the ascent on the bridleway to Edale Cross was only 1.5 miles; my first trip along here 12 months ago, it felt like a pilgrimage in itself! Before too long I was at the path junction where I jumped off yesterday on my way home. While the next section was probably the most technical i.e. most likely to break an ankle it wasn’t long until I reached Edale Cross. There were a few hikers and families on their way down and looked quite surprised to see someone running up the hill!
Once at the top I tried to work out where the Kinder Trog route headed into the valley but it wasn’t obvious without going over the edge myself, so instead I carried on forward along the path where it joined the Pennine Way.
Last time I was here I was with the Spine Media Team as the Spine Race was heading up Jacob’s Ladder on a very wet January day. Today as I picked my way down Jacob’s Ladder, the views down into the valley were clear and beautiful, rather than lost in low cloud. As I ran along the latter stages of the Pennine Way into Edale a hiker congratulated me and asked me ‘how long it had taken?’ I was a little taken aback; I know my beard is a little wayward, but did I really look like I’d run the full 268 mile length from Scotland!! I laughed and explained that I’d only set out from Hayfield and carried on my way. Cake was within touching distance now and the weather was deteriorating,
The Penny Pot was heaving. I’m not sure if this was normal for a grey Saturday afternoon in March but there were hikers galore and lots of children, I presume doing their DofE awards. Being I was in a ‘self isolating’ mode I made swift work of coffee and cake and head back outside where the rain had started.
I’d love to say I was bouncing along the PW towards Jacob’s Ladder with new vigour post cake. But everything felt heavy and instead it was a mixture of walking and laboured jogging. I passed plenty of people heading in the opposite direction into Edale as the rain gradually became heavier. One walker commented that I was ‘hardcore’, but all I could think of to reply was that ‘it’s only rain’. I’m not the most soundbite-y person am I?!
Progress up Jacob’s Ladder was slow and soggy, although less so than when I was trying to film runners coming up it in January! It’s steep but the climb is much shorter in distance than coming up from Hayfield, but it was a relief to get the climb out of the way so I could pick up a bit of speed and get back before evening started to draw in. The descent was mostly uneventful save for nearly being taken out by a hiker who suddenly decided to change her line and crossed into my immediate path. Thankfully no collision, but I do wish people were a little more aware of what was going on around them!
The last tarmac mile seemed to go on forever, but I ran most of it all the same – it was predominantly downhill after all!
A check of the watch showed 14.3 miles total distance and just over 2900 feet of climb.
So job done. I’d wanted to get some hilly trail miles in to start the preparation for a summer mountain marathon that probably won’t happen given the Coronavirus situation. I’ve missed the hills and it’s so good to get back.
Rather than make this a hugely lengthy post I’ll cover the rest of the ‘holiday’ week in the next one!