Yesterday was a reality check. Me and my mate who’s running the Trigger Race with me went for our first proper recce of part of the route from checkpoint 4 at Snake Road to checkpoint 7 at Kinder Low. The Strava profile looked good and relatively flat. All the major climbs were behind us and we could get into a steady pace over the Pennine Way. However, as I know from experience Strava doesn’t tell you half the story and reality can be very different.
After a drive through the backroads of Yorkshire we parked up at the layby on Snake Pass that is by the Pennine Way. Luckily my mate was navigating or we may well have still been driving round now!
The weather was cool, no wind, with a sea of grey cloud adding to the sense of bleakness over the moors. This for me is perfect weather for running in as I don’t get too hot and it doesn’t sap my energy like the warm weather does.
Off we went on the Pennine Way at this point a line of slabs over the wet moorland so easy to follow and to run on. Our pace was good and I wasn’t having any problems with the running pack on my back and we made steady progress.
Soon we came to the short but steep climb up to the top of Kinder and here we stopped and began to try and find checkpoint 5. This wasn’t quite as easy as it sounds because on the map it says it’s a plane crash site but we couldn’t see any sign of a plane crash anywhere!
After looking at our maps (yes even I brought one!) we decided we were in the right area and we would be able to spot the checkpoint. Moving around the fence that keeps everybody off the top of Kinder and we soon found checkpoint 6. This reassured us that we were in the right area for checkpoint 5 as they are not far from each other.
We made our way back down to the Pennine Way and began the ascent up the short, steep, rocky climb to Kinder. At the moment I’m in good form on the ascents but shocking on the descents and today was more of the same. I powered (for me) up the climb and soon we were running round the edge of Kinder enjoying a beautiful autumn day with stunning views everywhere we looked.
Finding our last checkpoint proved harder though. Checkpoint 7 is a trig point on Kinder but there is more than one up there! So after one small wrong turn we decided to make up for it but taking a big wrong turn!
I had seen some rocks and for some reason we both thought it was a trig point even though we should both know better. We ran up to it and was disappointed to find it wasn’t what we were looking for. Then in the distance I saw what was a trig point and off we ran to that thinking it was the right one.
Looking at the map we seemed to be in the right place and choose to take what looked like a shortcut to Edale down a stream. After around half a mile we realised we were in the wrong area and seeing the Snake Pass and my car in the distance confirmed this. We had run to the other side of Kinder and we were off course.
This really hammered home the importance of recces to me and how easy it is to get lost in unfamiliar surroundings. Luckily for us it was a clear day and we knew roughly which direction we had to take to get back on route. In the middle of a race in rain or snow things could be very different and there is a very real risk of something serious happening…
After running through bogs, streams and over mounds of earth we eventually got back on track and after another mile we found our final checkpoint which wasn’t as far off the Pennine Way as we thought. Having found our final checkpoint I decided to turn round and head back as I could feel my energy levels dropping and my left foot was aching from running over the rocks.
This was the right decision. The Pennine Way here is just a load of rocks and it is mentally and physically challenging to pick out the fastest path and keep moving at a decent pace. At times you are jumping from rock to rock and if you’re not used to it, it drains your energy very quickly.
We made slow progress along the edge of Kinder and by the time I got to the steep descent off it I was spent. My mate went skipping down whilst I trudged down slowly as snails and sloths went casually past me with ease.
By the time, I reached the bottom I was aching everywhere and my left foot was now throbbing and painful to run on. I was determined to run to the end though and began the long run back to my car. The Pennine Way seemed a lot longer and steeper than hours ago, when we had gone the other way but tiredness does strange things to you…
Eventually we got back to my car and could rest. Even though it had been a long and tiring day it had been a very good one. We had found four of our seven checkpoints and I had once again pushed myself to my limits and beyond. This will help me when it comes to race day and I feel confident I can cope with the big climbs to come before and get to the checkpoints before the cut off times. Even though it will be a long day and it will be very tough I’m starting to look forward to race day.