Alarm goes off at 03:30 I awaken immediately silencing my phone the house falls back into silence. If it was work I’d batter the snooze button for a while before mentally muttering some obscenity’s but it isn’t.
It was 11:30 before calling it a night after going over the route description and gpx file of the course. Left uphill through style then between a gap on the wall take middle track and so it continued, it helped me sleep because my head was fried from the information it was trying to take in. I laughed to myself thinking pointless exercise really I won’t remember any of it come the morning.
I met Ryk Downes ( Race Director of Punk Panthers Ultras UK ) placing signs across from the Methodist Church in Otley. I introduced myself and he said blimey you’re early Billy! Better early than late I like to know my surroundings a little so I’m not panicking last minute I explained. Ryk kindly gave me directions to Costa as I was in need of a caffeine fix.
After kit list inspection and registration was complete it was time to stretch of my back and hips. I won’t lie even though my Osteo said my back would be good, it was at the back of my mind that it could flare up and possibly be my first ever VW during an event. I made my way to the SP and parked up by this time other competitors were coming in.
A quick race brief by the RD any last minute questions ask now if not have a great race! GO we were off and what a lovely calf and quad warmer to start as we make our ascent up through the Chevin Forest. Even by this early stage I knew this was going to be a little cheeky but I relished the start to be honest. I gained a couple of places going up the first section which made me smile, yet knowing I’d have to throttle it back and have some discipline!
There was a pack at the front which I was in and was feeling very comfortable in my running. I wasn’t getting carried away though as I knew that some would be running the 50km so a little caution was required. One of the leaders had come running back down a hill a little in front of us, a little detour of course which was easy enough done. Gut instinct told me something was wrong I couldn’t see the two runners in front of me. After checking my gpx position we were off route ever so slightly and pointed to where we should be going.
I had a chat with a female runner who had recced the route to the first two CP’s and she said going by the tape she’d have kept going on. I explained the two guys in front couldn’t have disappeared that quick as it was open ground in front in the direction we were heading. Amy another runner checked her watch she confirmed my thoughts. This wasn’t to be the only detour of the day.
The female runner who had recced the route said it was a good job I noticed our error. I jokingly said you best stick with me then from CP2 oddly enough she agreed. The route had everything from fields to well worn paths that were easy detected, to some that a Gurkha would struggle to find. This was exactly the test that I needed taking me out of my comfort zone!
It had been over 2yrs since my last Ultra the River Ayr Way ( RAW 40 mile downhill ) a good event. The High Life not only being 10 miles over my furthest distance the elevation was too. Having completed four Fan Dances with AEE and two of their Test Week Marches that gave me the belief I could cope with what comes. One of the CP’s was at the bottom of very steep decline yep you guessed it straight back up. I laughed out loud thinking this RD is a sadistic so and so.
It was on that climb back up from Skipton CP I felt really comfortable with any of the elevation I had encountered to date. I had taken 1 ibuprofen and 1 paracetamol at that point my left ankle had given me grief from mile 4. I had hoped it would run itself off I was telling my new found running partner. It was after that CP I said that she could be first female back in the 80km to which she laughed then I reminded her it was only 50km females in front of us so far. Deep down I was determined to make that happen even more so as the race continued.
On top of the moor on our way to the last big CP for us at Timble I went man down. Taking a bit of knock on my right side but managed to get up pretty quickly to continue running. Are you ok Billy? Yes I’m good thanks! It looked a pretty heavy fall from her view point she told me. I was even more embarrassed by this remark, it had aggravated my left ankle badly I found out pretty soon after. We arrived into Timble at a decent time and I saw guy enjoying his pint – I jokingly said I’d mug someone for a pint right now! True Yorkshire man style not bloody my pint you ain’t as his friend laughed.
We checked if anymore female runners in the 80km heat had come through and no was the reply. I battered the water melon and orange into me like no tomorrow followed by more ibuprofen and paracetamol. William one of the 105km runners rocked up straight after us we had exchanged some good banter early on in the race. He was of a man on a mission we followed soon after and what followed was arguably the worst detours taken in the entire race!
That wooded area still haunts me it was one detour after another. This way no that way it continued until for the first time we checked the route description ( mandatory kit ). Still not any the wiser after a check of that a bit of yellow tape was spotted. We lost sometime in that 10k after Timble but it added to the adventure I said ( trying to kid myself but I was annoyed with me ). Fatigue was my excuse but it was a shit one.
We had one mini CP to reach before the final stretch of our race. I noticed a hill and went we’re defo going to be going up that it’s a given. Checked in at base of hill and up we went on our merry way. I had been struggling with a bad stomach cramp and now a heat spot on my left foot. I was determined to end the game along with my running pal. The last 6.2 mile was nothing short of mental from being chased by dogs, another detour the biggest one, a massive bull with his herd under a rail bridge ( we had to get through btw ). Rolling under an electric to fence, to then me having to insist it was over the bridge we went not across it…..
There it was the Finish Line….
Summary : mixed terrain of trail road and path.
Navigation : be prepared and be on top of your game.
Difficulty : hard enough.
Experience : bonkers.
Ohh yes she made first female back in 80km distance! Both of us finished joint 3rd in that heat.
Seek out your comfort zone!
Important: Race Marshall’s stepped up to the plate 24hrs before the event – due to call offs. Utmost respect thank you guys & girls without you no Race!
Fellow competitors the cleanest event I have ever taken part in – no gel wrappers – no energy bar wrappers – no plastic bottles discarded ✅🌿