Report from Hannah Lupton
Once again I had the bright idea of doing a Long Distance Walking Association event, what’s not to like about them? Cheap, low key, checkpoints with food and drink and a meal at the end; you’ve just got to complete a hilly 23 mile route, easy! Having completed the Wensleydale Wedge last year with Sarah Fuller in horrible conditions underfoot and in agony with my wrecked ankles I had unfinished business and when I entered earlier this year I was determined to be fit and smash it. Unfortunately, life has got in the way and I’ve barely trained recently so I knew that I was going to struggle but it was a day out in the hills with a couple of mates, Sara Richard and Sarah Fuller, plus a night away in a B&B in Askrigg and a meal in the local pub.
On Sunday morning we woke up to a crisp, clear and gorgeous sunny morning looking forward to a no pressure run / walk in the hills. We carb loaded on a fantastic breakfast at the B&B and waddled to the start to get our numbers. It was busier than the year before as the weather was much kinder and there was a real buzz that it was going to be a grand day out. As is always the case with these events it was a low key start and at 8am off we all went down the road out of Askrigg to head across a network of fields to Semer Water. The conditions under foot compared to last year couldn’t be more different. Last year was a mud fest of one step forward several slides back, plus snow across the top. This year it was lovely and dry and even quite hard underfoot from the early morning frost. My lack of fitness became clear as soon as we hit an incline as I struggled to breath and coughed my way up trailing Sarah and Sara who were happily chatting away. The hills were well worth the effort as the views were stunning, you could see for miles and the sun was shining on the gorgeous autumn colours of the trees and fields.
We made it to Thoralby check point, which was in the village hall, in good time and ready for some refreshments. I think Sarah and Sara had enough fruit cake to sink a ship whereas I favoured the marmite sandwiches and several chunks of cheese. I was feeling fairly tired at this point as we were about 11 miles in, I hadn’t run more than 8 miles since the beginning of Sept and really hadn’t done much training so I took the opportunity to rest my legs for a minute before I got caught by Sarah who told me to get up and get going before I stiffened up. Off we trotted along some narrow back roads before a long uphill drag through some fields to arrive on the road above Aysgarth. My legs were burning and again I was trailing behind, I was determined to keep going and was encouraged by the fact that I felt much better than at this point last year when I wanted to pull out due to ankle pain. I knew the route wasn’t too bad for the next couple of miles and after a very brief check point stop , and more cheese, we followed the path that takes you to the lower falls at Aysgarth before veering off to the left to take another network of fields and bridleways towards Castle Bolton.
Sarah and Sara were still in fine form, chatting away and having a great time. I meanwhile was really fading and for at least a mile had been considering how I was going to tell them that I’d had enough, I was happy with what I’d achieved which was about 15 miles and it’d done me good to get out in the fresh air. I really could have just laid down in the field and gone to sleep, I was done! As we approached the steep hill up to Castle Bolton I admitted I was really struggling and we decided I’d see how I felt at the check point at the top of the hill, which was definitely a walker. I was of the opinion that if I could get a lift back to the start I would take it but Sarah and Sara were having none of it and said they were happy to walk the 5 miles to the end as they were happy just to be out in the Wensleydale countryside. Sarah also said I could have a nap in the car on the way home so I could be refreshed for our night out in Leeds to see the Killers. I thought I needed more than a nap to be honest but it was an incentive nevertheless.
After a brief refuel, which Sara particularly enjoyed, I pulled up my big girls pants and decided they were right and I’d try to carry on; it was downhill for a while anyway so we could run that and walk when I was tired. Off we went down yet another network of fields talking about last years run when Sarah and I had to negotiate a field which was coming up and which last year had some really frisky cows in it. Guess what, as we approached the next field it had cows in and yes they were frisky. We’d just set foot in the field after climbing the stile when they started fighting with each other and moving too fast for our liking, I was back over that stile in a flash. We decided to do what any self respecting group of women would do and ask the guy that was behind us to let us walk through the field with him for protection….. yes I know, so much for independent women… We took a very wide berth of where the cows were and despite being shattered I probably ran the quickest I had done all day to get through a gate and into a cow free field. It’s amazing how a burst of adrenaline can get you moving again.
Thankfully the rest of the route was uneventful and we enjoyed the undulating scenery, I managed to run more than I thought I could even if it was a slow trot and I even managed to join in some of the conversations again. As we hit the final check point Sarah said we had about a mile to go and she seemed to think we might be able to get under 6 hours. I was dubious we could manage it but as it was all downhill I was game for giving it a try. Running downhill when you are tired isn’t as easy as you think, I don’t know about anyone else but I get clumsy so although I was trying to go quickly I was also trying to stay upright, especially through a short wooded section with pesky tree roots sticking out. Anyway, I managed to stay upright and after a slight delay due to being unsure we were on the right route, which we were, we returned to the hall in Askrigg after 6 hours and 7 minutes having had a great day out. I was completely exhausted.
It’s hard to compare our time with last year as the conditions were really so much better but we beat the time by 20 minutes; it was an improvement so I’ll take that as a positive. Did I get my nap in the car, did I heck, I was just dropping off as we approached Blubberhouses. I did however manage to crawl into bed when I got home and had 20 minutes before meeting Sarah again to go into Leeds for some tea and a great gig from the Killers. I even managed to bust some moves to a few songs. My poor legs are now in need of recovery before I refocus and get my arse out training properly again.
I can’t recommend the LDWA events enough, especially those of you who think you can’t run 23 miles. You really can, it’s not about running the whole way. It’s about running when you can and walking when you need to, enjoying the scenery, having a chat with the lovely people at the check points who feed you up and encourage you on your way, meeting other people who aren’t trying to beat you to the finish but are just having a nice day out too. I’ve already got next years entry in for Rombalds Stride and will no doubt do Blubberhouses 20 and One Foot in the Gargrave again. As for another go at WW, apparently I have no choice, it’s now an annual trip out. HELP!!!