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Apparently I had missed quite a few rainstorms while in Tenerife the week before, so it was no surprise to hear that the trails on this year’s Wedge would be muddy. I think that they are almost always muddy on the Wedge, so really not much was changed. In fact, I get the feeling that my first 6 months living in the UK have been abnormally dry, and from now on the wet weather will be returning. Perhaps the few months of dryness were just a lure to make me fall in love with the moors and fells, and then once I’m hooked, the bogs will slowly start to suck me in permanently.
Regardless of Great Britain’s ultimate plans for my demise, my feet did in fact get soaked and muddy within the first mile of the run. Then it was just a repeat cycle of dry bits where my feet would get warmer and dry out a little, before getting soaked anew while passing through yet another churned up muddy gate.
The first (and really only) major climb of the route came soon after the start. Although the Wedge is known for having bad weather, it didn’t seem too bad this year and the NE winds weren’t howling. But as we climbed up into the Dales, I was startled to notice the tops of the hills covered with a brushing of snow. And soon enough, we were actually climbing up and over the hills, and churning footprints through the windswept snow piles. I don’t mean to say that there were drifts…perhaps they are better described as a few flakes clinging to the heather tufts. But it was quite chilly heading into the wind at the top, and I was very happy to start descending into the valley.
By the time that the original color of my shoes disappeared completely, I descended to the Church in Aysgarth, where the route led us right through the kirkyard in complete disregard for all the nicely dressed churchgoers arriving for the service. The bells were ringing wildly as I passed through the tombstones and down across the river, and finally to Reservoir Runner Adrian's checkpoint. Adrian let me know that my friend Helene was quite a ways ahead of me, and indeed first lady on the course. It was only a few steps out of the checkpoint, when I took stock of my aching body, and started to wonder if perhaps I should turn around, retire, and get a ride back to the start. Now, I have never quit a race half-way through, but I felt as if my legs had already run 50 miles, as much as they were aching. I did continue on, but each step started to feel like a mile, and my pace slowed dramatically over the last few part of the route. Now a bit of that might be attributed to the slippery mud of the trails I was supposed to be running over, as my shoes were caked with the stuff and had no traction at all. The last few miles, which Helene had described to me as “runnable”, turned out to be just an endless series of slippery, muddy cow pastures with water-logged gate crossings. At least the abnormal NE winds meant that we weren’t bucking a headwind as well. Ugh.
After finishing, I complained to Helene that if she considered that last section runnable, then she had very low standards. Perhaps that’s when she happened to mention a certain race called the High Peak Marathon, which is in fact 42 miles of night-time navigation through trail-less bogs that can sometimes be waist-deep! http://highpeakclub.union.shef.ac.uk/hpm/hpm-index.html I guess when considering how bad it can get, the Wedge trails do seem pretty non-threatening.
This was the first race where I really had the map out the whole time and was actively navigating for myself. Cynics might ask how hard it really it to follow a muddy trail of footprints that look like a horde of elephants had just gone by, but…for me, at the moment, I am happy just to get through a race without getting lost. May I point you back to my spectacular blunder at the Round Rotherham just a month before?
The dull pain in my legs has convinced me, though, that perhaps the 60 miles of the Rotherham are still rattling around in them somewhere. I think I need a bit more time for recovery, before this turns into a full-blown running injury. Given that I have never really had a running injury (falling down the stairs and spraining my ankle years ago shouldn’t count, as it didn’t happen while on a run), I think it is slightly ironic to have one now. Just a day ago, I volunteered to participate in a 12 month study, looking at the training habits and injury rates of distance runners. http://www.runfurther.com/index.php?cPath=766_867 I was hoping to lower their injury percentage by gleefully never having one myself, but now, on my first day of logging my mileage, I will have to hang my head in shame and declare myself (slightly) broken.