Monday, 14 April 2014

Always be prepared!

On the 12th of April, I returned to one of my favourite ultra distance events – The Calderdale Hike.  37 miles and a good 5500ft of ascent, this low key event is organised by a local Scout group and is one of the best events I’ve taken part in for participant support and the low cost entry fee offers  fantastic value for money. 

It also has the bonus of a good mix of terrain and navigational challenges, a little bit of tarmac, lots of trails and flagstones and some good bits of open fell and bogs - lots of bogs!

The night before, I reviewed my map and split-times for each check point from 2012 and checked the weather forecast – rain predicted for the afternoon.

Since I started doing longer events a few years ago, I’ve learnt lots of hints and tips from team mates about going with minimal, lightweight gear and experience has also taught me what I can or can’t get away with carrying, in addition to mandatory kit stipulated by event organisers.

I packed the new Hangar 18 Minimal Waterproofs into my 5L backpack – and already pleased, I still had room for extra bits that I normally have to hang off the outside. I’m a bit of a stickler for ‘no frills’, and in the past I’ve been guilty of butchering backpacks in order save grams- removing zip tabs, extra fastening tapes, padding and handles all removed with scissors like a woman possessed! The Minimal Waterproofs are my cup of tea- no pockets, extra Velcro closures, or zip tags – just the waterproofs with taped seems, a fold away hood, elasticated cuffs, and elasticated toggle adjustment on the hood and hips. 

On Saturday morning, the runners were set off an hour after the walkers and I tried hard to remain in my own little bubble as we all set off as I’ve not raced for a while and trying to get my pacing under control.  Within 3 miles the fields were a bog-fest, so my trail shoes were soaked straight away, not good with another 34 miles to go.

I travelled though each check point of which there are many and quite frequent for a long distance event, lots of food and drink supplied by the friendly marshalls.  At 12 miles I got to Hoof Stones CP and then a few miles of following a very boggy and tussocky fence line, with the wind to contend with too.  I had my nice new Hangar 18 Buff on too, so that kept my ears warm and stopped my flowing fetlocks looking like I’d modelled myself on Sideshow Bob.  My feet were now really soaked, but perfectly warm in my Hangar 18 Alpaca Crew Socks.  I prefer the crew socks to the Heal Tab version, as I have a habit of kicking my ankles while running through tussocks and the cuffing on the ankles is nice and thick and offers some protection.  I managed to make it to Whiddop CP without losing my shoes or socks to the bog monsters, but was starting to feel very uncomfortable on the decent.  I checked my watch, I was still on running well to my previous splits, so feeling positive about that.

Lots of tarmac bashing and flagstone hoping over to Howarth, made slightly less painful with good company, but I started to really suffer.  The annoying little voice in my head that asks if I’m eating and drinking enough keeps me shovelling grub down, that’s not the problem.  More friendly faces appear, runners I often share a few miles with in events, but one says ‘Helen, why are you limping?’  I had no idea I was and carried on, thinking he can’t have been eating and drinking enough either and must be imagining things!  Another big hill followed by an agonising descent – what on earth is happening?  My already shortened stride length, turns into a shuffle, then a crawl.  As I slowed down, I started to get cold, so my waterproof layer goes on and I hobble to the next check point. 

It’s the first time I had worn the Minimalist jacket and it did the job it is designed to do perfectly. The roomy unisex cut and no frills design means it’s much easier to get on quickly compared to my other ‘delux’ jackets. 

I arrived at the CP and had no choice but to retire.  I got offered a seat and a cup of tea by the kind marshalls, but couldn’t even sit down for a to physio for me.

Helen Skelton

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