3.6.17 Wharfedale Trail Half Marathon, Grassington 13th place 1:37:01
What an amazing event! The route is stunning and the photographer was sat at the top of a monster climb so I struggled to give him a smile but it really was an absolute delight from start to finish and a reminder of the simple joys running gives – a stunning route in a beautiful part of the world is all you need. I was fairly pleased when I found out my time at the finish and with my race position – there were over 400 in the race and the top 10 was loaded with Yorkshire clubs, most of which are based on the edge of fells and big hills, so for a southern lad from the flat lands of Suffolk, I was pleased to mix it with them. They had to ask where I was from as St Edmunds Pacers was not immediately clear to them up in North Yorkshire! This event really does have to be on every Pacers wish list and being a Saturday race, it makes for a much better weekend :http://www.wharfedalemarathonevents.com/.
I had no real goals in mind for the race other than to use it as invaluable trail racing experience ahead of the Snowdon event next month and so my only plan was to really attack any relatively flat bits, particularly off the top of climbs, attack the downhills with a conscious thought to my technique and to simply hang in there on the climbs without expending too much energy so I could go hard off the top of the hills. After leaving Grassington in a north-east direction, we had a cracking steep descent down to the bottom of the valley in the background of this picture to a hamlet called Conistone, before a long 2 mile + climb all the way up to where the picture was taken. This climb was at least on a farm track, as soon afterwards we were running across peaty boggy moorland. As it was such stunning weather, there were no minimum kit requirements just four checkpoints along the course to scan the hand-held bar code and sip some much needed water. It was also a really useful reminder of how wildly different such a race feels to running a half or full marathon on flat roads where you are fairly one-paced the entire time. I had huge fluctuations in pace on this race, partly deliberate and partly inevitable given the route, and this was the most pleasing aspect that I could keep putting in the faster bursts on flat and downhill sections throughout the course, including finally overtaking the guy who finished behind me on the long, technically tricky descent back to Grassington. Passing five guys on the earlier descent into Conistone was also a confidence boost as, from my few previous forays up to Yorkshire, I have been left stunned by the pace the fell guys descend so I knew this time I would have to throw caution to the wind to mix it with them, whilst being mindful not to let them all then pass me again on the next uphill. My cousins live in Ilkley so it’s always a nice few days break up there and only just over 3 hours up the A1; my cousin did the race with me on Saturday, whilst our wives and little ones enjoyed the sun and stunning views.
The other plus is my recovery – I felt fine in the legs yesterday and am heading back out on the trails tonight for a 1 hour tempo run. I was anticipating having some pretty sore ankles after the rough terrain from the race but so far so good. It’s a confidence boost that I feel back to full health with normal energy levels and fitness-wise seemingly in not too bad shape as I know I need to put in a big training month in June, with the Bury 5 as a short sharp interruption to training, before tapering off in July a couple of weeks out from the Snowdonia Trail Marathon. I did have a cautionary thought soon after Saturday’s race about how long I’ll be out there in the Snowdonia race, when trying to give myself a comparative indicator – Saturday’s race had about 1600ft of climb and the Snowdonia Trail Marathon has about 5500ft but given my 1:37 time on Saturday, I think sub-4:20 should be possible but to be honest, I’m not going to set specific targets, just enjoy running in the wilds and getting round in one piece. I’ll also definitely do this race in Wharfedale again!