Monday, 23 November 2015

Peak Raid: Grindleford

With the first snow of winter on the ground myself and fellow Glossopdale Harrier John headed over to Grindleford for the 3 hour score event, Peak Raid. I don't know the area very much at all, so it would be full on navigation for me, rather than recognising features and bee-lining for them. I really wasn't feeling the love for running with the cold temperature, knowing we'd be running in icy wet conditions underfoot. I don't mind wet, but wet and icy are a sure way to numb feet, pain and reduced enjoyment. But, this race was a counter in our club championships so I put those thoughts in a corner of my head and applied Rule 5.

We were allowed to start early, a bonus since we'd arrived early. John was still sorting kit but I was ready so dibbed, was handed a map and off I went. The map was a 1:25k scale, but as is usual for orienteering style events the colours and markings on the map are different to OS maps. It took me a while to figure out what was path and what was a boundary we weren't supposed to cross, and with lots of lines around the start area it was a challenge to see a clear way onto the hill.

Looking back down towards the woods where CP1 and CP2 are
I chose check point (CP) 1 for my first target. Just get running, moving, and dib to settle the 'OMG am I going to find anything' nerves! It was immediately apparent conditions underfoot were horrible. The forest I was running in from CP1 to CP2 was a quagmire of icy muddy rock-strewn-tree-rooted horribleness. And, I'd lost the path between the two so ended up bashing up a short section through the same plus brambles and dead bracken. Nice. The RO told me later that the paths in the woods aren't clear at all, so I felt a bit better.

So I'm now about 15mins in and feet going numb. Not good. My body was warm enough, hands even sweating enough to take gloves off for a while. But feet....gone. Keep moving. That's all I could do to try and get some warmth back to my toes. This was the pattern throughout the event. Toes would get some feeling back, just to be plunged into more icy wet bog or marshy quagmire on the open moorland, or getting the calves cold as well as I bashed across the snow strewn heather to reach CPs or chose to avoid the icy paths by running in the heather to the side.

Climbing up towards open moorland for CP13
From CP2 I climbed up onto the moorland - no idea what its called as orienteering maps don't have names on! CP13 was my next target, a small standing stone at a random point near the path. With good visibility other runners were hitting the CP and making an easy CP even easier.

Now choices. Go on, get CP 15, 14, 10 and then onto 11....and risk feet going silly cold? Or do a shorter route, get a minimum of 5 CPs (my mental minimum on these type of events) and get back a bit quicker to defrost. As I stood at CP13 weighing up the options the wind picked up. I'd got sweaty running up and along the moor, and now the wind chill hit and my body rapidly cooled. That decided it for me. A shorter route, enjoy the good visibility and get back to plentiful cups of tea in a warm room a bit sooner.

As I turned to retrace my steps and pick up the edge path (along White Edge I'm told) a herd of deer ran across the path only 30m ahead of me. Wow. If I'd pushed on to CP15 and the longer route I would not have seen them. Beautiful.

Deer on the horizon and right. Note the wonderfully inviting icy and boggy path in the foreground!

The edge path was decent running, treacherous in places with the boggy bits not quite frozen enough to trust running over, the stones skimmed with glistening ice, and the heather coated in soft wet snow. Pick your best line and go with it. The valley beneath had mist rolling in and out of it making a good distraction from the toe situation. There were more deer on the moors below the edge too, and some highland cows.

The path along White Edge...where it looks clear it was actually ice
I noted the next feature I needed to nav to and tucked the map away to enjoy the walk run, hop, bash toes, slip, fall, run walk....the rhythm went on. Knoll passed (my ticking off feature), I could see the trig point ahead and knew I now needed to bash across open moorland to a 'gulley' and CP11. Other runners once again made the nav too easy; it would have been much different if it were claggy!

Looking back from near the trig point towards CP12 and CP13
With plenty of time in hand I went up to the trig point. Now I can definitively say I have been to that trig...which on checking an OS map is on White Edge/Big Moor. From here I pondered going to get CP4 then CP3, or the other way round. I decided to drop down and across the open moorland to the edge below - Curbur/Froggatt, not sure which. I can safely say if I never cross that bit of land again it won't be soon enough. Horrible marshy, boggy, grass tufty-ness. Plus ice and snow. Yey! I bet it's lovely running there on a dry summers day....not yesterday though. At the edge path my decision was made. My feet were proper numb to the point I was kicking things and not realising until I semi-stumbled.

CP4 was away from the finish and through more forest. I did not fancy an additional 2km in the same stuff I started the run. I turned right and picked up CP3 without any difficulty, returned to the edge path then headed back to the finish. The route back wasn't entirely straight forward...the boundary lines and contours all blurring a little as the wind picked up and my eyes watered in the cold air. I took my time and hit each turn and feature bang on.

I finally got to a point in the forest I recognised, not too far from CP1 I'd clipped earlier and put the map away, with no rush in my legs going back to the finish. I still have well over half an hour to finish in. Then I realised that if someone else got the same points as me time would matter, I'd be best to push on and get back as quick as possible. So, a final lift to the pace and I'm running across the final field, across the bridge and dibbing at the end. 165 points gained from 6 check points, and with about 34mins to spare. Oh what I could have done with a warmer, less icy day. Never mind, I thoroughly enjoyed my run and would like to go back to explore the area again - seek out the deer that I'm told live around White Edge and Big Moor.

Results have now gone live, I finished as 7th FV40 out of 12 (class split results) and 88/115 overall (overall results).

A big thank you to John for driving us safely to the venue and back, and to the race organisers for a well-planned event with copious tea and biscuits afterwards. Superb.