There were some last minute places going about 2 weeks ago so I got a transferred place. I'd been out in Switzerland for a week hitting just over 100 miles with about 8000m of ascent over the days I ran but was feeling great and quite fancied the run! It's a similar thing to the Sandstone Trail over towards the other side of Cheshire. On the whole the route was easy enough to follow - if you were looking out for markers, the most difficult bits were if you came into a farm yard for example and there were multiple paths in a similar direction. Nothing too technical although I managed to overshoot a turning and ran back adding a measly 1 km to the distance. I hadn't recced the route although in 2013 I helped out at checkpoints and had run a few miles of the route also I'd passed by a few of the areas in other races around the area, so a couple of parts looked familiar.
An early start to drive to the finish in Disley where we registered, parked and where the post race feast was. A coach to the start for runners arriving about 8am and then there was a short time for people to get ready and warm up starting at 8.33. I ran a couple of km along the canal path we would start on and then there was a quick briefing before the off. Lots of friendly faces around and the perfect clear, sunny morning helped charge everyone up.
I set out at the front at about 4 min kms for the first 4km which was canal path, I could hear a set of foot steps behind so chatted to a guy Damien who seemed to be breathing very hard for the start of an ultra, we had a bit of broken conversation until the gradual first climb up Mow Cop which was fine apart from a cow that was in the single track path between two fences, I tried shoving it out of the way but it didn't really have anywhere to go so rather than mount it and risk getting DQ'd for getting assistance I slid under the fence and ran around in the field before rejoining the path, that was the last I heard off any other runners today.
Fantastic running along after Mow Cop, I was enjoying the trail and could see I was approaching the Cloud quite quickly. I recognised this section having run the Cloud 9 fell race route one day a few years ago and before I knew it I reached the cp at 9.5 miles in about 1 hour 8mins and 9 minutes clear of a small group 2nd - 5th. I find when I'm looking out for markers and running through new places I don't tend to notice the miles going by especially on such a nice day! Didn't really notice the gradual climb of Wincle Minn and moved well towards the transmitter tower. I looked back to admire the view and two heads moving up the track caught my eye, I was a bit surprised by this and increased the pace off down the descent... I glanced across and saw them clearly... turns out they had helmets on and were on mountain bikes... never mind! I had run a couple of km around the 2nd cp last year whilst cheering on a client of mine who did the race and I recognised where I was and moved well into the cp. I took some water as I'd drank my bottle by now and a few jelly babies and moved on up the next climb.
It was quite a fun section as we hit Tegg's Nose which was quite a good climb and lots of amused walkers as to what I was doing. Pretty nice area again and a good descent. I knew the cp wasn't far after Rainow although it was a little further than I expected and I'd forgotten about this ascent. Pretty stiff and I managed to jog it up with some pretty small steps with a small group of walkers passing a few comments on my mental state.
Passing the top of a shooting range was a bit daunting so I kept my head down and before long reached this big white thing, The White Nancy. After that a couple of undulations and I glanced at the watch to see what kind of time I'd be in for. I'd expected anything upto 5 hours and thought with 3 km to go I had plenty of time to reach the end in about 4.56ish .. as the kms passed what I'd expected them to I thought about the little out and back I did earlier that added me some distance and upped the pace even further to try and get sub 5.....
I rolled in 5 hours 1 minute... not seen the official results yet but it was almost 1 hour ahead of a group of 3 that came in joint 2nd and I was 14 mins under the course record. Some good performances all around on a surprisingly challenging course and a warm day. Post race involved laying in the sun all afternoon tucking into a fantastic post race food spread with lots of fruit!
As always a perfectly organised event and at £18 entry fee, probably cheaper than staying at home!
Look out for the Double or Nothing race in a couple of weeks!
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