Stairway to Heaven

Yes, there are two paths you can go by, but in the long run
There’s still time to change the road you’re on.

Out of action all week with a cold that just wouldn’t go away so missed planned Ilkley Incline on Wednesday before finally starting to feel better on Friday.   Tried a gentle 4k run and felt like all fitness had gone, it also reminded me that I had sprained an ankle last week and it hadn’t fully recovered.

This added to doubts about continuing with planned double on Saturday but needed the practice for next week, so it was off to Barnsley for a parkrun at 9am.

It is reputed to be the toughest parkrun in Yorkshire but whilst undulating, I didn’t think it was a particularly hard or slow one.   The enjoyable course was a smidgen over 3 laps, a brief uphill then a bit of down and flat, then about half a lap uphill, but broken up into 3 or 4 stretches giving plenty of chance for recovery. GPS

Was aiming for 23-24 mins so took first lap easy, second a little harder than planned and then ran third at a bit more sustained effort for 21:36, much faster than expected. About the same amount of climb as Watergrove but without the cobbles and unevenness.


It was then a drive across to Holmfirth through some pretty foul torrential showers and the hills increasingly shrouded in mist for the new Summer Wine Trails 12.5km  Stairway to Heaven Trail Race at 11am in Holmbridge village.

In keeping with my current lazy planning I had only briefly scouted details beforehand mainly to decide on shoe choice, and with a little help on twitter, settled on road shoes.

With the course heading up into the misty hills and only a small turnout I knew I was likely to running alone, so I spent a good minute carefully studying the route map – lollipop course, no flat, two hills (over 1000 feet of ascent), water halfway round square-ish loop, 2nd hill peaked 3/4 way round loop. Little did I realise that this would be the most important minute of the race.

stairway1From the start, a group of four went off leading the way and then a couple just behind and another just off them. I had decided to aim for the hour mark but had no idea how I would feel so set off very steady soon moving into a space behind these.

As the road rose up I gained a place before we turned up a steeper rocky track. The Ackworth guy ahead was walking and I managed to run and pass him before the track flattened and he came back past and pulled away, as I was reluctant to push this early. The mist was thicker and there was only one more visible up ahead.

As we reached the road crossing to begin the loop section visibility was getting down below 100m and the pair soon vanished, I could hear at least two runners behind chatting, so concentrated on keeping it comfortable before we got to second bigger climb.

After dropping down a narrow little track I managed to push on and then paid for it as the track started to climb up a short steep section, struggled for air and pain developed in chest so briefly stopped for a couple of deep breaths then walked whilst I recovered, finally managing to break back into a run but had at least two now right on my heels.

Shortly after, approached a T junction where three women were pointing in different directions, confused as to how they got in front but there was a walk option that set off an hour earlier.

As we got closer I could see the sign pointing right but felt sure I should be going left. The image of the race map was clear in my mind and as we hadn’t passed the water station, I knew there was no way we should be looping back yet. I made a split second decision to go left as it felt correct, and soon passed a marker tape to confirm so ploughed on up a long hill at increased effort with 3 or 4 on my tail.

AR B Stairwayfter the water station, I upped effort again to drop them as we approached the top of the hill and then pushed hard all the way down the road until my lace came undone. This is only the second time in hundreds of races it has ever happened, but I knew with a very uneven fast rocky section coming up I couldn’t risk leaving it. After a mile of thinking about it found a suitable spot to stop, fumble around, and made a right cock up of re-tying it. I could hear runners approaching in mist so hared off again to try to stay out of sight in the now thinning mist as we lost height.

I’d scouted a decent runnable line on the way up and despite tired legs was determined not to lose the place – I had been hopeful with the decent downhill speed I might have caught someone ahead but no sign.  The runnable line turned out not to be so runnable at speed but somehow managed to stay on my feet. Finally got to the steeper rocky section and hoped my ankle would hold as I kept the pace going down to the road, still a couple of km to go so checked watch and regulated speed so as not to overcook it too soon.

Finally came to final junction and road flattened off, immediately giving me cramp in right calf – only second time that has ever happened too. Somehow kept going through the pain as my calf twisted itself in knots and gave my best ‘I’m not in pain smile’ to the photographer at the finish, only to find I had finished first as lead group had gone astray.
I crossed the line by my watch in 59:59 (although another kind rounding down has it has officially at 59:35) which was actually more pleasing than the ‘win’. GPS

Although as first prize was a three course meal for two at the nearby Bridge Tavern, maybe that just trumped it. Decided it was a long way to come back, so had an excellent post race lunch.

Rock and Roll!


Decided to lay off racing on Sunday and plumped for a gentle 17km ‘recovery’ run.