Back in the Spring when I was planning my year I was looking for something a bit shorter for November and on paper it looked as though the White Rose Ultra would fit the bill nicely. 30 miles and around 4000ft of ascent in the South Pennines, a bit like the Haworth Hobble I assumed. The application went in but I didn't bother to find out any more about it until a couple of weeks before the event. On looking at the course in a bit more detail I saw that it looked like about 50% road; not too inspiring, but I read one or two blogs from competitors of previous years and they sounded generally enthusiastic, so I went along anyway.
The event base at Golcar is not much more than an hour's drive from home for me so I travelled over on the morning of the race. Fog on the Manchester side of the Pennines gave way to completely clear skies in the East; it was clear we were in for a beautiful day. The satnav delivered me (and most of the other competitiors it seemed) to a road about a hundred yards as the crow flies from the venue but with no obvious connection to it. Eventually some-one found the way in and we made our way along a little path (which turned out to be the "finishing straight" of the run) to the old mill building which was the base of operations. There I met John Kynaston and Debbie Consani, neither of whom I knew was running today; also Mark Dalton who had turned up to support a friend on the 100 course. Three events are run simultaneously around the same course - the 30 mile covers one lap starting at 8am, the 60 mile starts at the same time but goes on to a second lap, while the 100 had already started at midnight and would continue on to 3 and a bit laps.
Registration was low key but quick and efficient and it seemed like a good number of us were under way on the dot at 8am. I later found out that there were 50 or so starting the 60 mile event and nearly 200 in the 30 miler. For the first few miles the field was quite packed with a bit of queueing at gates and stiles, but I wasn't in any hurry, having no particular ambitions other than to have a nice day out and get round in good shape. To start with the course wound through field tracks and country lanes, pleasant but not particularly memorable. The weather was fine and sunny and I spent the first 10 miles mainly chatting to John Kynaston. He was running conservatively as he had two laps to complete; this suited me fine and the miles rolled by.
There were well-stocked feed stations at regular five-mile intervals, but as I'd brought a 500ml water bottle I didn't bother to stop at the first two. At the ten mile point John stopped to top up and I ran on through so I was on my own for a mile or two. The field had now thinned out and it was getting a bit hillier and up onto the moors. Although the course was fully marked, you had to concentrate at junctions to spot the arrows, and at the times when you could see no-one to front or back it was encouraging that the organisers had painted a discreet white double arrow on many posts to reassure you that you were still on track. John caught me again just before the 15 mile feed station - half way for me and feeling pretty easy.
The next was a slightly longer stage, 6 miles to the next feed station. Near the start of it we hit a long downhill to the village of Marsden, and just before the bottom we caught up with Javed Bhatti who was also doing the 60 mile event. I'd met Javed at the Pennine 39 run back in July; he has already completed the Spine Race and is entered again for next January so I was interested in his views on one or two aspects of the race. Coincidentally, our course today was just joining a section of the Pennine Way up to Wessenden Head, but definitely one of the easier parts as it follows a really good track. Javed said it was about 25 miles from Edale (start of the Spine) to here, so it would definitely be dark when we got here in January. Today however it was light and the views were probably as good as it gets.
|Approaching Wessenden Head with John Kynaston|
John was running to try and keep a constant heart rate and as we carried on up the very gradual incline towards Wessenden this meant a walk-run combination so we eventually pulled away from Javed. The feed station was at the top of the climb. I was getting very hot as I still had a thermal vest under my teeshirt, so I stopped to take it off while John carried on. I thought I would probably catch him again soon, but the couple of hundred yards he had gained at the stop remained pretty constant for four miles to the next feed station. I could have speeded up with a bit of effort but I guess we both thought we were running at the right pace for comfort, and that just happened to be exactly the same speed for each of us.
This four miles involved a long steady downhill for well over a mile down a road. There were no signs and I could see no-one ahead of John. I had put the course into my GPS and fired it up as we ran down the road just to check, but I needn't have worried. We were soon at the turn-off to another moorland track, and from there the turnings, and consequently the signs, became more frequent. The tracks continued more or less level to the feed station. Here the course made a sharp right turn so John looked over and gave me a wave. There then followed a bit of bouldery track which I maybe a bit happier on so I eventually caught up with John again. As we were now less than five miles from the end of his first lap, he was mentally preparing to set out again on the second. We reached some slightly slippery downhill single track and I pulled away a bit but this wasn't really intentional, again I just think it was ground that I'm more familiar with as I spend so much of my time running in the Lakes. The ground underfoot was generally very easy on this event - the blogs from last year had talked about significant boggy sections but there were none today, just an inch or two of mud in places; a result of the really dry Autumn we've had I suppose.
We went down a hill over a canal, passed some old industrial buildings and this was the one point on the course where the signs had disappeared, possibly removed by local pranksters. I had caught another runner who was equally unsure of the way so I paused to get the GPS out again just to make sure we were still on course. John caught up and we carried on to the end of the lap, a mile or so of mostly uphill walking. John was looking strong and I wished him well on his continuation, but this was the end of the shift for me.
I finished in a time of 5:47 for 37th place out of 169 finishers. I'm happy with that, it wasn't too stressful an experience, generally a grand day out. Would I do it again? Probably not, too much road and jeep track for me really, I prefer ground where you have to watch where you're putting your feet; but on the day, the weather brought the views out to their best so I wouldn't have missed it on this occasion.
John struggled a bit on his second lap, maybe as a result of the hot weather on the first, but still finished his two laps in 13:21 to get 12th place out of 42 finishers. Debbie, in spite of being knocked down by a car (and thought to be a hospital case by those around at the time apparently), shrugged it off to finish first lady in 11:05, in 5th place overall and breaking the ladies' course record. Well, it makes a change from falling in the canal I suppose.