Monday, 30 April 2007

A very difficult 22 miles in the North Pennines

I set myself a target of 4 and a half hours to run the 22 mile course from Castleside to Middleton in Teesdale. Conditions were perfect with a tail wind from the east and it wasn't too hot.

The first 8 miles to the tea rooms at the end of Waskerley Way were pretty straight forward. I managed to keep to my intended 10 - 11 minute mile pace and descended into Stanhope in glorious sunshine.

When I reached the Ford at Stanhope I felt very hungry indeed. Imagine my joy when I saw an ice cream van (pictured). Imagine how that joy turned to ecstasy when I found out that the ice cream van sold hot dogs! Tremendous! I searched frantically in my back pack for my emergency £2 coin and handed it over to the bemused ice cream man.

As soon as I'd scoffed the hot dog, I set off up the hill out of Stanhope. I didn't find it too bad this time. This was the 4th time in the last 4 weeks that I'd attempted it. I'm definitely getting used to that nasty 17% climb.

By the time I'd reached the next summit at 1311 ft I felt very hungry again and was pleased to see Katy and Jack waiting for me in the car a mile later. At this 13.5 mile point I scoffed 2 bananas and drank half a litre of water. I said a quick hello and goodbye to Katy and Jack and set off up the further 780 ft climb covering the next 2 miles.

I can safely say that the next 2 miles were the hardest I have done in a long old while. Not only could I feel the energy drain with each step, but my confidence was taking a bit of a battering too. I felt as though I was locked in a battle. Just me versus the hill. There was no way I was going to let it beat me. "Quitters never win, winners never quit" was the phrase going through my mind.

I reached the 1695 ft summit absolutely drenched in sweat. As soon as I drank another half a litre of water I was on my way again. On my way downhill that is!! I dropped 700 ft over the next 2.5 miles and found myself running an 10 - 11 minute mile pace again.

My legs really ached for the final 4 miles and I didn't have a positive thought in my head. However, my spirits were raised with 2 miles to go when I saw Middleton in the distance and I finished the run in style with mile 21 in 11 minutes and 22 in 9.5 minutes.

I was really pleased with my final time of 04:20:04. That's probably quicker than the first 22 miles of the 2 New York and 1 London marathons I've done in the past. Had I been doing 26.2 miles today, I think I would have just been outside my 1997 London Marathon time of 05:05:13. Only just though! Mind you, there were no climbs like these in London or New York.

These stats just underline the hard work I've put in during the last 12 months. Every week, I keep saying "If I keep this training up I'll be ok". I'm now starting to believe this. I now reckon I've got a very good chance of getting to Lands End. Everything is starting to fall into place just nicely with 2 months to go. 2 MONTHS!!!!! DON'T PANIC!!!!!