Tour de France

En danseuse jusqu’au sommet

(Dancing to the top )

A busy couple of weeks building up to the launch of Watergrove parkrun on Saturday and the Le Two’r Halves 10 mile race in Mytholmroyd on Sunday.

The week before my new shoes had arrived –accidently ordered Cumulus rather than my usual Nimbus and very disappointed that they are by far inferior, despite being very similar build. After a couple of short runs, I think I will chug out a few miles in them but won’t be getting another pair.

Sunday was a nice steady sunny run over Stoodley Pike to take weekly distance to 23.62km (14.7m) which was a bit light against plans, but few niggles around lower limbs.

This week I got back on the mileage with a 10.37km run on Tuesday, still not keen on new shoes which overheated my feet and resulted in a blister. I followed that up on Wednesday with the last in the Littleborough 5k series (in old shoes). I didn’t want to push too hard and planned a steady start, gradually building to a quicker finish.

Pretty much went to plan but picked up pace a little early before pushing harder than planned for the last 2k to cross the line in a relatively comfortable 20:39.


Saturday was the inaugural Watergrove parkrun and after staying dry for the set up, thunder & lightening struck just a few mins before the start. Fortunately not enough to call it off but seconds after we set off with me tail running to get inaugural #23 in the bag, the skies emptied.

I tracked off the back at first but then caught up the last two and had a bit of a chat on the way round, interspersed with brief stops to chat to marshals.

After easing off, the rain became torrential again by the finish – which I delayed for another chat with a couple of parkrun tourists a few yards short of the line (apologies to finish volunteers!).

All in all, it was a pretty successful launch and we managed to meet our quiet target of keeping it under 100 runners, with 89 turning up despite the cancellation of Heaton, partly helped by the weather no doubt.


All of which made a nice build up to Sunday’s race, Le Two-r Halves 10, a rather unique 5 mile up / 5 mile down Cragg Vale along the Tour de France route and the now infamous longest continuous gradient in England. With Hendon coming up and being slightly short of long runs, I planned a steady start (160 HR) out the 3 mile point, then up effort to 165 HR to the turn and a gentle jog down the hill at 155HR.

However, was feeling good on the line, especially in the warm sunny conditions, and realised that the wind would be against us on the tops which would make my planned ‘fast’ bit very hard going. With seconds to go, I quickly switched plan to a more even 165 HR effort to 3 miles and then see how I felt, with the hope of keeping it going to the top. Immediately shot off at 170 and settled into about 10th place after half a mile.

I tried easing off effort but even dropping a few places HR was still up, was feeling ok and got a bit of a tow for a while but realised that 170 was too high and tried again to ease back. Managed to get a bit more comfortable but still couldn’t get HR down.

It was only 3 weeks since I did a flat 5k at 171HR average and that was pretty much my limit so I was alternating between concerns that I was going to blow up any second, with enjoying the run and how well it was going, so far. A constant 5 mile uphill, albeit mainly not very steep, is a rare test and after running all the way up Trooper Lane the other week (150m in 0.75km), I was definitely up for the challenge of a longer steadier climb.

To put it in context, though, it was 250m over 8km, pre race I had watched this year’s Transvulcania highlights which starts off with a 2000m climb over the first 18km, 4 times as steep on volcanic sandy paths. Maybe a bit more training required before I take that one on! Good inspiration.

Approaching half way up the hill, it steepened a little and I felt a slight tiredness in legs and slowly slipped backwards a little more. A quick mouthful of water and the rest down my back refreshed me but almost immediately we were out into the open road and heading into the wind. I tried hiding but lost touch with the guy in front and a couple more place slipped by, unable to hang on. I allowed myself to get slightly demotivated with the wind and doubts over going to fast too soon, resulting in a slight drop off of effort.

Another Toddy, Michael, came past and I briefly kept up but effort was too high and I reluctantly backed off. Finally the next runner, Geoff from Halifax, came by and I was able to hang on. We passed the 1km to go painted Tour marking and I upped effort managing to hang on to the now very gentle incline. A slightly cruel extra bit past the zero line and it was time for the descent.

I had been dreading this as I knew it would be much harder on my tendon and the length of the descent risked aggravating it badly, add on two niggling achilles, a bruised foot and a bit of blister from a week earlier and there was a whole lot of tape holding my feet together. The plan had been to take it steady but with a Tod vest just ahead I had to at least put in a token fight?

I worked hard as Geoff closed the gap to Michael before going past him a few yards. I stuck behind them both but then decided my best chance was to make use of the gentler slope at the top as I was more likely to have problems lower down. I was still consistently in the 170+ HR and had given up worrying, this was turning into a great run and I was really enjoying it again after the rough patch.

Around the 6 mile mark I made a ridiculously early move and steadily upped effort, around 172-174. I decided to keep that going to 7 miles and then take it back to 170 as the road steepened. I didn’t look back but there was no sound of feet so knew I had a bit of a gap. I doubted it was going to be enough but was still feeling good and no pains.

All my focus was on counting breaths to the runner in front, 40…38…36… 30 I was definitely closing gradually but after going through 8 miles feeling completely fine, I started tiring and suddenly was wobbling. I wasn’t sure if it was just in my head or whether I was actually physically wobbling but this wasn’t good.

I struggled to get my only dextrose tab out my pocket, whilst simultaneously trying to work up some moisture in my mouth and keep as straight a line as possible. I t still wasn’t clear how ‘real’ the wobble was.

I read recently that just the taste of sugar in your saliva is enough to revive your brain; well I had the sugar so I must have been missing the saliva, as even after a minute chewing and trying to swallow it down I was still not coming back. Finally things were feeling better and I’d dropped back to 170.

The chance to catch the runner ahead had gone, as had the runner himself, which meant I’d lost a significant distance. The fear now was holding off the two or more behind. I didn’t panic and decided that if I could keep effort up at 170 it should be enough. Head was clearing all the time but I was sure I could hear feet? Still didn’t look, concentrated on maintaining effort and recovering.

Coming round the final bend with 400m to go I glanced back hoping that it would be all clear, only to see Geoff bearing down. Damn, I was tired and would have been happy to jog into the line. Now I was going to not only keep going but up the effort, I immediately upped it half a notch, and then again.  Could feel the power fading a bit each time.

Coming to the line I was sure I had it but upped it again the last 50m just to make sure, nearly threw up and struggled to get bottle top off for a much needed drink for about 2 minutes but was really happy with time of 1:13:39. Took a few minutes to recover but then got a decent warm down jog in too. Better than Grisedale or Bluebell and most importantly tendon had survived, roll on Hendon!

Average HR of 171 was insane, may need to re-calibrate my expectations but still stick to the next phase of a 3 month steady plan.