Thursday, 23 March 2017

The Grindleford Gallop

Caz and I on Froggatt Edge
Some people may think I am competitive, and the truth is, if I'm going to do something, especially something sporty, I want to do it as fast as I can, I can't help it! On saying that, I am not a sore loser and would not try to win at all costs, I just try hard - there's nothing wrong with that right?!

After hearing about the Grindleford Gallop over the past couple of years, I have always been of the opinion that the distance is obscene and that it would never even feature on my radar.  (The Grindleford Gallop is a 21 mile fell race for walkers and runners which covers some beautiful - and hilly parts of Derbyshire). 

However, as entry day loomed, my friends started talking about how difficult it can be to get a place, how beautiful the route is and how the event sells out in like, 3 minutes...  so somehow, whilst rustling up a spag bol in the kitchen one night in December, I found myself clicking on the "enter" button, just to see if there was any truth in this myth.
Deer behind us on the Chatsworth Estate

Before I knew it, I had signed up and was wondering WTF I had done!  I had now committed to a 21 mile training plan and no doubt numerous lost toenails! EEk!  My anxiety was only comforted slightly by the fact my friends Caz, her hubby Tony and Helen had insanely signed up too! (along with quite a few other Goyt Valley Striders).  

The longest run I had done previously was 15 miles when training for the Tissington Half last summer and that was on a canal!  And it was bloody horrible! So, in January, Helen, Caz and I set about trying to do one long hilly run per week, along with my usual biking, swimming and pilates sessions.  

Chatsworth Land

Late last year, I entered an ambassador competition through Ordnance Survey.  Not expecting to hear anything I just thought I would apply and see what happened.  I wasn't successful (unsurprisingly) but, for my efforts applying, I did get sent a link to the OS Maps mobile app with £19.99 worth of UK map downloads for a full year.  I downloaded the app and was a bit dubious because these things are notorious for draining battery and memory from your phone.  I was pleasantly surprised that it didn't take up too much space unless you downloaded maps for use offline.  

So basically, I can now plan routes and save them, but only make them available offline for when I need them, hence saving space.  As a test, I exported the gpx. file for the Grindleford Gallop route (from the GG website) and uploaded it to the app.  It was brilliant!  We used it for our recce. 
A Great View from Froggatt Edge

We decided to recce the route from checkpoint 2 at White Rake and leave a car at the end in Grindleford.  It was a brilliant day weatherwise - cold but sunny, perfect!  Caz and I omitted to tell Helen it would probably be around 15 miles as we knew she might think she couldn't make it!  So, armed with my new app and a fully charged phone we set off on the route.  

Caz has entered the gallop many times before so did know where to go, but the app kept us accurate to a pinpoint and we used it to gauge milage.  We took it easy on the recce, running where we could but consciously walking up the hills to save our energy.  We wore hydration vests and took food rations with us to keep us going.  We were delighted to finish feeling well and Helen and I were really chuffed to have made our longest run to date - 16 miles in total.  
Helen and Caz ahead on the Monsal Trail post storm

On race day, Caz, Helen and I were all supporting the Thomas Theyer Foundation and wore the bright yellow T-shirts instead of our usual club vests.  It was a warmish day thankfully with no rain forecast - phew!  I don't think I could have survived 21 miles in cold, damp weather.  Registration was very well organised and we soon had our dibbers on (you have to "dib" at checkpoints along the course) and were ready for the off (after a long wait for the toilets!).

Once in the start field we hung back and it was a very low key mass start.  The first few miles were quite bottle-necked and there were queues at stiles, it took until checkpoint 1 (at 5 miles) to notice the field really spreading out.  It was quite an odd sensation to deliberately start slowly and I had made sure I kept telling myself we were not really racing, just getting round and trying to enjoy it!  I had a time of 4 hours in my mind as an ideal but I wasn't worried about doing it in a set time.  

Bridleway up to golf course in Bakewell
From the start Caz was not comfortable, her breathing wasn't right and both Helen and I were quite worried about her.  But, being the fighter she is, she carried on regardless and seemed to improve between checkpoint 1 and 2. Helen and I felt great and were enjoying the streams, river crossing and fields which we hadn't negotiated before.   We took all the hills very steadily, my legs were wondering what on earth I was doing!   My sister Andrea kept popping up in key locations to offer us sweets and take photos which was a real boost.  By Hassop Station we had covered some good distance and were feeling ok, I was dying for a wee so went into the toilets at the station (I checked it was ok with a marshal!), Helen dressed an impending blister with a compeed and we carried on towards Bakewell along the Monsal Trail.    

Once into Bakewell we climbed up a steep bridleway towards the golf course.  At the course you have to ring a bell to let golfers know your presence, I bet they were hating us that day with 500 people crossing their course! 

Highland Cattle on Froggatt Edge
After Bakewell we crossed into Chatsworth Estate territory and down into the village of Edensor, a beautiful little Lilliput style place adorned with the classic Chatsworth teal paint around all the windows and on doors.  We passed one of my favourite caravan sites in Chatsworth and then arrived at the next checkpoint in Baslow.  At Hassop I had procured some beautiful buttery flapjack and was delighted to see more at Baslow!  I put two pieces in my pack as I had forgotten my sandwiches!
Enjoying myself!

Helens parents and children Rowan and Henry greeted us about a third of the way up a serious hill towards Froggatt Edge and we were offered more sweets!  I think I probably consumed as many calories as I burned!  Once up on the ridge I felt like we were definitely going to make it and was relieved that it was a downhill finish, albeit a very long drawn out ridgy one!

Andrea and her lab Dotty greeted us once again at a stream crossing as we passed onto the final stretch of Froggatt Edge, and Caz seemed to be ok so Helen and I pushed on a bit with the knowledge that Caz's strength lies in downhill technical - a section which we knew was coming up - where she would catch us up.  

I was so impressed with my legs as I thought I would be stumbling and struggling at the end, I wont say it wasn't hard but I felt like I actually raced the final 2-3 miles at a decent pace - mainly because I just wanted it to be over!  Helen and I blasted down the technical descent and thoroughly enjoyed it - I think it was my favourite part of the whole race!  

Helen in fine stile!
Caz unfortunately went over on her ankle which seriously slowed her down at the end.  Helen and I waited for Caz as there was no way were weren't finishing together and we crossed the line in a sedate 4 hours 24 minutes but totally chuffed we had made it in one piece (except for poor Caz!).

We all made it!
I am so glad I entered the Gallop, I am sure I will do it again, I would like to aim for a time of 3:45 (which is actually Caz's PB) but that would require lots more training and inevitably a lot less fun!  I was right about one thing though - my big toenail has taken one for the team... 

Results can be found here.

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