Dusk ’til Dawn 50 miles (part 4)

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3

Checkpoint 5 – the END:

The Cat & Fiddle pub at Checkpoint 5 had been at mile 27.6 miles, and chatting to someone new helped the next 1.4 miles to Checkpoint 6, a self checkpoint go really quickly.  We were headed uphill, through fields and over stiles, but at much less of an incline than previous hills had been at.

The sweeper (a different one) caught us up whilst the four of us were clipping here, wanting to remove the checkpoint and continue with the route.  This checkpoint spot came back to haunt me though…

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(Picture taken from DtD Facebook page).

As the Sweeper passed he told us unless we ran the whole way from there to the following checkpoint (approx 5 miles) we would not make it before cut-off as there was only just over an hour to make it there.  The boys took off almost immediately and Vicky and I also began to jog on, although soon slowed our jog as we came across large slabs laid onto the ground.  This was labelled as a ‘fast four mile section’ of the route.  The slabs were very uneven, wet and muddy though and by this point the wind had gotten up, blowing us both across the path repeatedly.  No more than 200 metres onto the slabs, the fog seemed to lower around us and we dropped to a power-walk, for large portions of the route not being able to see further than our feet.  I did not enjoy this section.  I’m not sure if it was knowing I was only going to make it as far as the next checkpoint or the not being able to see where I was going, or the utter isolation we both felt, despite travelling one behind the other for several miles – not being able to hear what the other was saying.  I lost all GPS signal on my handheld so my Garmin was useless by this point.  We guessed that they organisers wouldn’t lead us off from the path without obvious markings though.

Eventually we hit a road, and in the distance we could see a town lit up at the bottom of a hill.  This lifted our spirits and further down the hill ahead I thought I could spot the headtorches of the boys.  I headed right along the road to look for a path and Vicky headed left.  I spotted a footpath over a stile and shouted to Vicky who also shouted that she could see tape ahead.  The stile on her side of the road (the side we had just come from) clearly had the race tape wrapped all around it.  It must have been the right way, but it felt so wrong, climbing back up along the hill we had just come along slightly further round.  Vicky led off this time, although the fog was still horrific and after running into fences a few times I came across another large path of slabs so we lept onto this and I led the way again.  We ran for what felt like forever.  It was incredibly cold now and I was really looking forward to getting down out of the wind.  All we could do was follow the path infront of us.  It was too foggy to make out any landmarks and the Garmin was still not registering where we were.  We followed the path for about 70 minutes, attempting less and less to make conversation over the wind as we got colder and colder.  Eventually, the path stopped and we came into a clearing.  The fog had also lifted.  But I recognised the clearing.  It was where the last self-check point had been!  We had left there two hours ago!  My heart dropped but we quickly made a plan, knowing that we couldn’t keep still in the wind for very long.  We knew there was no chance of making the next checkpoint before cut-off now and if we attempted to head back across the windy slabs again there was a good chance we could get lost again.  We also knew that we were within two miles of the last manned checkpoint, the Cat & Fiddle pub.  Even if the marshals had packed up by the time we arrived (strong possiblity) we would be able to let the team know where we were.  Reluctantly we continued back the way we had come hours before.  All reflective tape had since been removed and we didn’t make it quite the same way back onto the road this time, instead coming out not far from what looked to be a large barn.  I ran nearer, hoping for a name on the barn so that we could get directions to the pub over the phone.  It turned out that it was a Tearoom, and when I rang Richard to say that we had gotten ourselves severely lost and returned in a circle, he told me that it was just 300-400 metres up hill on the road to reach the pub, where we would be more sheltered until a lift could pick us up.

It took us about 15 minutes (much further than 400 metres!) to reach the pub and crawl onto a step at the side.  The next 35 minutes we gradually got colder and colder, tireder and tireder and for the first time that night I could feel my stomach growling.  Eventually, after our heads shooting up every minute at every passing car, a minivan arrived and we both bundled into the back where I promptly fell asleep after a brief chat with the driver about the winning men who had just come in as she had left to collect us.  The winning time was 9 hours and 20 minutes.  An average of just over 10 minute miles!  Super speedy over that terrain!

We were about a 25minute drive from the hotel and I woke as we were were heading through the streets of Castleton again, to see the first lady and a couple of the lead men heading up towards the finish.  Still running strong!  As we got out of the minivan my legs crumpled underneath me and my walk up to the finish was incredibly slow – my legs had really stiffened up.  As we arrived two men ran through the finish and one promptly threw up on the floor infront of the line.  It was another 45 minutes until breakfast would be served and all I really wanted by that point was bed.  I had been shivering uncontrollably since sitting on the step by the pub.  Vicky had no where to stay after the race, so knowing that we had two spare top bunks in our room I offered one up for her.  We tried to not make any noise heading in but our lights woke a startled Sarah, who told us that she had had to pull out at Checkpoint one following waterproof issues with her coat.  I had intentions to shower, but at the end of the day we were both too tired so caught up on the race gossip from Sarah whilst changing into fresh hoodies and jeans and leaping under the covers of our beds making plans for breakfast the following morning.  It was already after 4:30am.  In my tired state I questionned if we would be allowed breakfast which the others found hilarious. They reassured me that we would not be denied breakfast just because we did not complete the race and I slept soundly through until just before 8am when the others stirred for food.

Walking was something I found I had to ease myself into but the breakfast was worth it when we arrived.

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When I checked out though, the large picture behind the desk I felt taunted me from the night before.  There were the slabs…going off into the distance…with no end in sight!

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The following day was a write-off.  I began my blogging extravaganza and Chris, the editor of Women’s Running rang me for a telephone interview about the race.  I also got this lovely email from the race organiser.

Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge

I have the first 6.62 miles of Garmin data stored on my watch, but I must have hit the button whilst climbing over a stile at this point, as it wasn’t until 7-8 miles later when I realised my watch had stopped and I started it again to record another 22.76 miles of data.  Very frustrating.  Although not as frustrating as not finishing!  But I have already declared that I shall be back in 2014 to complete my unfinished business!

Dusk ’til Dawn 50 miles (part 3)

Part 1 | Part 2

Checkpoint 2 – Checkpoint 5:

I didn’t stay long with Mum, Dad and Dan at CP2 – not wanting to get cold and conscious of the time ticking away.  I was aware of others behind me at the checkpoint long after I left, and had heard one guy say he was retiring due to injury.

It was a little while before the sweeper caught back up with me again and he commented that I must have sped off.  Several sections of the route between CP2 and CP3 were on road and I wanted to make time up where I could.

I ran for a little way with a guy, Phil, and we were joined for a bit with another guy whose name I never caught.  He had come out in road shoes and told us that he hadn’t been aware of what the Dusk ’til Dawn event entailed.  He was really the only negative person I encountered the whole race and I did get a little frustrated stuck behind him along the narrow trail stomping along for a while until the path widened and I could pass.

There was a really steep hill section around mile 13steep where we were literally pulling ourselves along by the fence posts to our right.  I was determined not to stop, but to keep going at all times.  This, like many parts of the course was completely unrunnable!  I imagine for anyone that didn’t regularly work out parts of this would probably have been unwalkable at all!

We hit the second road marshal at 14.5 miles, who rushed out to tell Phil and I that we were only 2 minutes ahead of the cut-off time.  I knew there were still others behind us at this point, having overtaken a few struggling up the steep climb.  It put me into a bit of a panic though.  There was no way I wanted to be withdrawn this early into the race!  We picked up speed, and luckily, it was at a point where there was a lot of road sections.  Although we also chanced some more technical tracks – jogging over rocks and mud.  Phil slipped down in a large puddle, knocking his ankle which he said was already weak from previous injuries.  We continued on though – picking up pace where we could and just as we picked up a faster pace over a generally flat bridepath Phil’s ankle buckled and he went down again.  This time he couldn’t continue and was in a lot of pain.  We had to stop on the side of the road to make a plan.  I worked out roughly where we were on the map, knowing that we were about 30 minutes past the last road marshal and we called for help.  Apparentally we weren’t far from the Duke of York pub, where he could sit and wait for help, so I walked about 3/4m-1m alongside Phil as he hobbled along the road.  I wanted to push on, but felt guilty for thinking about it, knowing I couldn’t leave him.

Once I had dropped him off I managed to run for a good mile or so before coming to several fields.  I paused here to get my bearings and also pop on Dan’s gloves I’d borrowed for the event.  Gloves are the one thing I’ve never needed to run in before but the long pause in running from helping Phil had meant I had started to get cold.  I wore them the rest of the race.  I determined that I should go straight ahead, but the couple close behind beared through the field to the right.  Doubting myself I followed them, although when they paused and I caught up I mentioned that I thought we should be further over.  They pointed to about five headtorches in the distance bobbing away so I followed along behind.  However, when we caught up with those five headtorches, all five runners were bent over maps looking for a way out of the field!  Lesson: Don’t assume others know where they are going either!  In the end we all took it in turns to leap over a high wall onto a road and run down into the village where Checkpoint 3, Earl Sterndale School was.  The first indoor checkpoint.  I had pushed past all seven people and was first to reach the school, although was aided getting there when I ran straight past and dan lept out of the car to call me in!

Here I had my water bottle refilled for me whilst I pulled the checkpoint card from my chest and hurriedly asked the marshal how much inside the time I was.  Despite slowing to help Phil and following others over the wrong route I had made up time and was now 20 minutes ahead of the cut-off time.

I was surprised at just how many people there were in the school still.  The large crowd of seven came in behind me, but there were already several runners crowded around the food station, at which I grabbed a mini donut on my way out, and several were still getting changed into the clothes from their drop bags.  I didn’t intend on sticking around and headed back outside for a quick chat with my family before making off along the road again.  We weren’t on the road long and it soon turned off up another incredibly steep hill through a field.

Picture from DtD FB page, of a recce run earlier in the year.
Picture from DtD FB page, of a recce run earlier in the year.

This point of the course was really all about keeping my eyes open for the tiny sticks of reflective tape dotted every so often to keep us on the right path.  Some of the places they placed tape were really inventive, and they had even wrapped tape around some of the thicker grasses growing on the ground!  I ran much of the next section alone, although could see two headtorches not far infront of me.  It was really eerie glancing around with my headtorch to try and spot the tape, thinking I saw some, but when I moved closer realising it was just a pair of sheep eyes!

We came out in a small village just past midnight where I caught up with the two gentlemen infront and a woman popped out of her house to see where we were walking to.  When we told her we had come from Castleton and were raising money for MacMillan she pointed us in the right direction and we were off again.

There were so many stiles on route, and by now my leg was cramping each time I cocked it over a stile.  Still fit, uninjured and incredibly enthusiastic though, I bounded on.  Now knowing that I was ahead of several runners who had possibly set off too fast and faded as they got further into the course.  As I had run at the back with Charlie earlier on he had commented that I would pass all those that were bunched infront of me and do better than them.  I felt proud that this was now the case.

I started running with Vicky, somebody that had lost her running partner to injury, not confident with navigating on her own and was worried that she now wouldn’t make the cut-off times ahead.  We teamed up with the guys ahead of us and it wasn’t long before we saw the Cat & Fiddle sign of CP5 in the distance.

We rushed in to hear that we were on the borderline of the cutt-off so I grabbed two bourbon biscuits from the feeding table (these worked a treat – must remember for next time!), got my bottle filled, checkpoint card punched, we had our photo taken and were off again.

TBC…(Later today, I promise!)