Digested read: I tried to do a recce of the 12.12 Dig Deep route today. I got lost. I had a nice time anyway. I ran into (see what I did there) some Smiley buddies. Yay! The setting was beyond spectacular, ’twas fair gorgeous out. More working towards running than actual running today, but hey ho, it was a start.
Bloomin’ Vitality pledges. It is increasingly dawning on me I have only about 5 weeks to get fit to tackle the 12.12 mile trail race that is part of the Dig Deep series taking place next month. I did the Whirlow 10k which was part of the event last year, and that was a little toughy. However, the setting was gorgeous, gritstone trails, fabulous views, a sea of purple heather surrounding us out under the sky. Despite a momentary doubt brought about by seeing a blood soaked fellow runner limping back as I romped out, I nevertheless fondly imagined that I’d come back the following year. In 2017, I wouldn’t be dragging my weary flabby carcass, puffing and groaning the whole round. Rather, renewed and trained to take account of every possible variable, I’d be stunningly toned and move across the landscape like a cross between the Duracell bunny and pyroclastic flow. So prepared, I could take on a bolder challenge. Fast and fearless. That bolder, boulder challenge, would be the longer 12.12 route. It’d be fine, it’d be great! This time I’d do it, I really would! That was then…
This is now. As things stand, I’m more jumblie than bionic woman. Jumblies may or may not be endearing, that is open to debate, what is not open to debate is their aerodynamic efficiency and running technique. Let’s just say it isn’t looking good. I’d more or less decided not to do the run, and then post our Sheffield Hallam parkrun birthday celebrations the other week I got caught up in the buzz of goal setting, and one thing led to another, public fitness related pledges were rashly made, and caught on camera and now I’m supposed to be running this:
Not all of it, thankfully. Only that innocuous looking bit in the bottom left hand corner. I know I can trundle round the distance in my own time, but whether or not some poor tail runner tasked with following me could cope with this duty without losing the will to live I seriously doubt. I am soooooooooooo slow. I am rubbish at navigating, and am assured it’s a well marshaled course, and that no such skills are needed. Even so, I had the genius idea of purchasing a map (£3.50 pre event) so I could do a recce for myself. Today, Monday, I would take to the trails and check out the extent of my inadequacies in relation to this challenge…. It would give me some idea of what I had signed up to, what could possibly go wrong?
Spoiler alert, quite a lot went wrong actually. The map was rubbish, it had insufficient detail, and the marking of the route obscured the paths they were supposed to be directing me onto. The result, epic navigational fail. I never was ‘lost’ in that I knew how to get back to where I started, I just couldn’t fathom where I was supposed to be going for the actual race. It was quite funny/ frustrating comparing where I actually went to where I meant to on my return as I checked out the evidence of Strava.
I know exactly where I went wrong, I will go out again in the next couple of days and try again. Still lovely out though, and many adventures. Apprehensive as I was about heading out, it is always worth it. The Sheffield trails are friendly always, and not just because we have been told to be nice, but because we always are.
Acknowledging that I’m not fit, and it was very hot today, I drove up to the parking bay opposite the Norfolk Arms and headed off up through Lady Cannings plantation. I was puffing from the start, but I decided not to get hung up on running, just do a leisurely walk/run recce, and see how my knee copes with the hokas. I love their cushioning, but for whatever reason, they seem to give my knee gyp. I do desperately need some new running shoes that don’t squash my toes and dig into my bunions and still have sufficient cushioning for my arthritic feet. It’s a tall order. I keep bottling it though, every pair of runners I’ve ever had has been a compromise, and whilst I’d happily fork out for some that were properly comfy and grippy under foot, I don’t want to spend £100 plus on yet another ‘not quite’ pair. I tried some altras the other week at woodrun. They were great for roomy toe-box but I’m not sure about the zero drop thing. Oh, who knew I’d have so much to say about shoe choices, when I can barely muster a jog out on the trails, it’s all a bit ridiculous. I was feeling distinctly portly, and my running belt, which I’ve decided I must start using if I’m going to up my distances, was weighed down with bottles of water, my camera, a map. Lucky I was heading out alone, wouldn’t want to be seen by anyone I knew in such unflattering attire. You might think there are no limits to what I will where whilst running, but you’d be wrong…
Within seconds of turning into the plantation, I felt that soaring gratitude that I live in a part of the world where we can do this. Right on my doorstep, a gorgeous and varied landscape. It’s like entering a parallel universe. Admittedly it’s a parallel universe populated by a disproportionate number of dog walkers, but you can see the appeal. It’s only fair to share. There were a fair few mountain bikers out and about too. They terrify me, not fearing for myself, they were courteous on the tracks, more I fear that they’ll come flying over the handlebars of their bikes right in front of me, and I will be the only available person on hand to provide emergency first aid. I don’t rate their chances. I’m not squeamish, but nor am I first aid qualified. I did have a mobile phone with me though this time, that’s a start, I could phone a friend…
I pootled through the plantation, and emerged onto the dusty gravelly road and turned sharp left heading towards Houndkirk Moor and then right across Burbage. It was just stunning out. The moor is thick with heather full of promise. It’s not out yet, nor should it be til August. There were occasional bursts of heather, but it was so vibrant purple I wondered if it was an invasive heather, it seemed a bit early and impossible, but maybe just a sun-trap created a micro-climate so it could burst forth. The roads were dusty, and pot-holed, but enticing too, you get a sense that you want to follow those roads as they will take you to adventures new.
I huffed up the hills, in the heat of the sun, but picked up a bit of a jog as the gradient helped me down. Then, joy of joys! Ahead a glorious trio of Smileys. If there is one thing more exciting than seeing a fellow Smiley on a run, it is seeing an unexpected Smiley, and the joy is multiplied when there is a holy trinity of awesomeness from the Smiley Paces running gene pool. What’s more, one of them was Elder Smiley and she doesn’t even live here any more, so that was like finding a unicorn grazing on a four-leaved clover field really. How lucky was I, here’s the proof. Look what I found:
and I even took a fantastic selfie by way of proof. I say ‘fantastic’, by this I mean I do at least have part of my anatomy within shot, which is more than I achieved when stalking Jess at the Vitality Move event the other week.
Hilariously (but then I’m easily amused), they were also doing a Dig Deep Recce, so we had that in common. They were doing the 30 mile route though, and they seemed to be doing a lot more running as opposed to gazing around, and a little digging on Strava showed a wealth of trophies for personal bests all round as they hared over the roads turbo-charged and smiling. I say smiling, but apparently there had been quite a lot of swearing at the hills going round. I wondered aloud whether other more experienced runners might say (not me, of course, but running coaches) that if you have enough breath to spare to curse liberally, you probably aren’t trying enough. Then again, given we were in the presence of Smiley Elder herself at this time, I daresay she was probably just making a helpful advisory factual observation in relation to the elevation of the local terrain, not complaining about the hills at all. It just goes to show, one shouldn’t jump to conclusions. One should especially not jump unnecessarily, when you need that energy to get up those hills.
We shared hugs and stories and then I waved them on their way.
Once I got over the shock of having been seen in public wearing what is a strong contender for my ‘most unflattering running outfit ever’ award (it’s a close contest), it was really nice to see some buddies on the trail. Plus, I was secretly pleased at having been caught out running, voluntarily. It put quite a spring in my step as I headed off, with renewed confidence that I at least knew where to make the first turn off the path. I was undeterred by the gravestone erected no doubt in memory of those that didn’t dig quite deep enough to survive the trails last year… that’s not an abbreviation for millions is it? Hope not.
I headed off up through a gateway and over towards Burbage edge. I made good progress for a while, and it was fantastic, long reaching views, head-high bracken. It was pretty uneven under foot, scrambly even in places. I wasn’t confident enough to run, I felt I had to pick my way. Can’t lie though, I was enjoying soaking up my surroundings too.
I started off OK, but at a critical point, there was a cairn, or more accurately a rock pile rather than an official way marker. There seemed to be a cross roads. The map I had wasn’t detailed enough for me to fathom which way to go. I reached the cairn at the same time as a large party of DofE (probably) walkers, and it felt wrong to head off at right angles so I followed the track they’d come up. That was where I went wrong. I should have veered right, I did for a bit, but lost my nerve and retracked. Oops.
So what followed was sort of curious. I knew I’d gone wrong, but couldn’t work out how to make it right. I wasn’t really ‘lost’ as I knew how to get back, and could see the road ahead so had vague sense of location, what I couldn’t fathom was how this related to the race route map at all. I made the mistake of asking some sensible looking walkers where I was. They looked panicked, I think they had visions of seeing something on Look North later, an appeal for manic looking woman last seen wandering the moors delusional and raving. They didn’t want to be the last people to see me alive. I decided to just follow the trails, because they looked fun. There were sheep, there were cows, there were walkers. Don’t know quite how I ended up at a Longshaw entrance though?
Oh well, at that point I decided it was prudent to head back, I glugged my water, that I’d forgotten about, but was glad of, and romped homewards. I saw hardly anyone about on the return leg, it was like I had the whole place to myself. I paused to take flora shots and soak it all in. My knee seemed to be doing OK, but the heat was punishing. I did wear sunglasses, but, heaven portend, maybe I should have gone really wild and donned a hat as well!
Eventually, I was back by Lady Canning’s plantation, a polite guy on a noisy dirt bike came whizzing through the gate as I held it open for him. A mountain biker genuinely said ‘ey up’ to me, by way of greeting. I love a good northern cliche on a run. A farmer was driving a bright red tractor, hay making in a hay-field. It was all pretty goddarned idyllic. Just as well, as so little running or navigation occurred, I shall have to do the whole thing again properly in the next couple of days. This was though always just a recce, so mission accomplished really.
Just time for a sneaky selfie, and then back to the car, where I noticed a way-marker giving distance to Sheffield Town Hall, which has clearly been there for centuries, but which I’ve never noticed before.
and that was that. Homeward bound.
I’ve felt of late I’ve really lost my way running a bit, deteriorating performance, dropping confidence, demon voices asking who am I trying to kid when my ‘running pace’ leaves me open to being overtaken by almost any animate object that isn’t actually nailed down. today I literally lost my way running too, in navigational terms. You know what though, it was still the idea of a run that got me out the door, and I still did 7 miles and nearly 900 ft of elevation. I found new places, met up with fellow runners, and breathed in some stunning scenery. I even found a strange stone bowl thing that I cannot identify. It was a mini adventure basically. Running optional. The hardest bit of any run, is stepping out the door. My slow and steady approach may push the boundaries of what might legitimately be called actual ‘running’ but it can tick the box of ‘working towards running’ and that ‘s a start. Go me. 12.12 is not ruled out yet.
What is this by the way?
So if you go out on the trails today, or any day, prepare for a big surprise, because there are Smilies aplenty everywhere you turn. Aren’t you blessed! And do try and get out on those Peak trails if you can, because they are there for the taking, and it would be a crying shame not to. Just saying.