Today at Wharfedale i faced what was a big unexpected challenge that perhaps few people can really appreciate.
Both myself and Charlie raced here last year, really loved it and finished in a happy time of 4.29. But this year was so different. I took Charlie into registration with me in his newly shaved slick look only to be greeted with ' you're not taking the dog are you?' by several officials. Now i know this is an official FRA race and officially dogs aren't allowed at FRA races but with this being so low key and a long race i thought they'd just turn a Nelson's eye but no. Being so taken back by their stringent adherence to the letter of the law, my 'don't mess with me' stubborn side ventured out first saying that I WOULD be running with him even if it meant running unofficially but after consulting with Karen over the phone I thought the better of it for all concerned and the race in general. But very reluctantly I have to say. First blow of the day. And Charlie sensed something was amiss. Even a bone from Nurse Gladys (thank you!), another RW forumite, wasn't enough to cheer up the mood.
Fortunately, my friend Kate was running (more about her later) so her partner Gerraint kindly offered to take Charlie with him as he followed her by car to various points around the course. Cheers Gerraint, much appreciated.
So to the race itself. As forecast it rained and as forecast there were strongish winds to contend with high up, but overall nothing too taxing weatherwise. The route is fantastic, mostly very runnable with a few stiff climbs for good measure of officially 2500+ft but it felt like much more compared to lots of other races i've done.
Anyway i set out to see if 4.29 from last year was beatable and started off well enough putting in some decent minute mile times for me (9.20, 10.19, 9.46, 10.00, 9.24, 8.48, 9.47). It was all going OK until my first mistake of turning right at Arncliffe instead of left into the village and checkpoint. by this time the field was so spread out i was running alone with no one in front or behind by some distance. I continued the wrong way for a couple minutes then stopped thinking i couldn't remember this bit from last year, so out came the written route instructions and yep i was right. Back down the road the correct way i went rather despondently to the checkpoint. Second blow of the day.
A bit of cheer next as i climbed up to Clowder to be greeted by Gerraint and a very tail wagging Charlie. I think he was gagging to come with me (Charlie that is)! Geraint told me that Kate was in fourth place when she'd passed them at that point...amazing (but being the furthest she'd ever raced could she hold on for whole the distance i wondered?). I said goodbye to them and pottered on.
12 miles in at 02.08.55 and looking good for a course PB. The site of the Malham Tarn was a boost..it kind of signals to me the start of the push back to the finish. But within 5 or so minutes of passing through checkpoint 5 i was up to my old tricks of going the wrong way again! If it wasn't for a very kind chap informing me thus it would have been a lot worse. I probably lost about three minutes here in total. Third blow of the day.
This made the rest of the race tough. I'd lost about 8 minutes going wrong which to my mind meant a course PB was all but a pipedream. And along with all this I was really missing the companionship of my running buddy Charlie. I was feeling how pointless it felt and how unenjoyable it felt running a distance like this without him and these thoughts began to take their toll, breaking into walk more frequently that needed. I wasn't enjoying it. And this time there was no Great Escape in my head. Just me, some lonely moorland and a few miles still to go. The daft thing however was I still had it in me physically to achieve a PB as i discovered retrospectively at the finish (though i didn't actually do it)but I'd resigned myself to what felt like failure and hanging up my running shoes forever.
My final mile splits were 10.52, 9.50, 9.12, 8.00 and a finish time of 4.32.34, feeling comfortable.
If i look on the upside..take of the 8mins going wrong and it would be a PB. If i hadn't have faffed around walking so much as i spat my dummy out it would have been a PB. And it wasn't the disaster that at one point I thought it was going to be.
I'm coming to realise as I've mentioned before that whilst I'm no gazelle I am very self-competitive and place high demands and expectations on myself. Last year was a journey of enjoying new adventures,this year, involuntarily, seems to be about revisiting those places for a better time.
But there is a very happy ending ladies and gentlemen. Kate and Gerrait were there at the finish line with Charlie, still furiously wagging his tail (does it ever stop wagging!) to cheer me in. I was really hoping Kate had held on in the latter half and was delighted for her to hear she'd finished 5th overall in a time of 3.12, beating the course record by a massive 24minutes!!!! Now that's going some. An awesome achievement. She has such amazing natural talent but is so modest with it, so i was really pleased to be back in time to able to celebrate the achievement with her and Gerraint as she collected her first prize (apparently it was me she said that gave her the idea of running it just a week beforehand). Bloody well done Kate!
And that's not all folks. I see also by spooky coincidence that RunningBear smashed the half record by 12minutes. Well done RB...another fantastic achievement.
After prizegiving I caught up with Nick and exchange post race banter. Good luck at the Western States Nick and see you at Osmotherley.
Arriving back home the sight of Hollie and Will charging out of the house to greet their returning 'hero' was enough to dispel any negative thoughts about my running future!
As for Charlie, at least he got some good walking with Gerraint and he'll be out with avengence for a course PB along with his sidekick at the Osmotherley Phoenix in four weeks time. Lets hope for a distinct lack of navigational blunders by my good self.