Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Sandstone Trail

This was the second time I had run the 31 mile Sandstone Trail and the first time I would try it from Frodsham to Witchurch (North – South). I had run the Wuthering hike the previous weekend and was planning a nice easy week this week but my mate Dave had pulled together a big group for a day out on the SST. It was an opportunity not to be missed and Dave also managed to convince me it would be excellent training to do back to back 30 mile weekends. 

Unfortunately the plans fell apart during the week, with Dave catching a nasty stomach bug and the others falling out one by one. It ended up with just me and Jeff. After an early start we got half way to Witchurch when Jeff got a text from (a different) Dave who was waiting in Frodsham. What a mess! We turned around and headed there.

I was more than a little intimidated by my two running partners. Jeff is a wily South African who is very quick and is known for not being able to run at a slow pace. Dave is a professional running instructor, so he’s not bad either. I am a plodder, and as I hadn’t recovered from last week’s race I knew my plod would be slower than usual. We made a deal at the start that they shouldn’t wait for me and I shouldn’t try to keep up with them.

7:45am and we were off. The day was perfect, with clear skies and a thin layer of mist over the Cheshire plane. Temperature was nice and cool but it was obviously going to get warm later. This would be completely self supported. I had 2L of water in my platypus plus a fruit shoot bottle with my electrolyte mix, three ham butties, some Shot Bloks, a mint Aero and two Mars bars, all safely stashed in my fantastic brand new OMM 15L sack.

As expected Jeff went off like a greyhound whilst Dave hung back with me and chatted. We basically hung together for 10 miles before I started so drift back a little. Just before we got to Beeston Castle, at 16 miles, I suddenly felt really tired. My legs felt like they had done 25 miles…obviously the miles from last week were taking their toll. I went from drifting away from the other two to plummeting. 

I assumed they would just run on but when they realised that I was no longer with them they stopped to see what was wrong. I explained that I was just feeling tired and they should crack on. They were both looking strong and I didn’t want them to have to slow to my pace. Also, when you are going through a low patch running with fresh people just makes you feel worse. The lads stormed off and left me to make the climb into Peckforton Hills.

I was really feeling tired on the climb and started to consider whether I should call Mich and asked to be picked up in five or ten miles. I let these thoughts float around my head for five minutes then decided that if I failed today I would fail on the Highland Fling. Conversely, if I made it to the end today then I would be guaranteed a Fling finish! With the decision made my spirits rose and before I knew it I was at the top of the hill and on lovely rolling paths again.

Peckforton Hills are my favourite part of the trail. The views are stunning, with the Welsh Clwydian Rage on your right and the Peak District away to your left. The trail is constantly dipping and twisting and the ground around you is constantly changing, making it very interesting running.

I thoroughly enjoyed the run down to the A534, though I was still feeling tired. The walk up to Bickerton Hill wasn’t too bad and before I knew it I was out of the hills and had only rolling countryside between me and Witchurch.

Not much of note happened on this last section. I had a cow with big horns (which looked a lot like Pat Butcher) defending her calf so I had to take a detour through shin deep slurry, which filled my trainers. I felt very tired as I went through Michael Owen’s garden but the finish drew me onward. With five miles to go my legs were tired, my feet were hurting but I got a big second wind and my pace got faster and faster. I was soon on the canal for the last couple of miles and then there was the Horse and Jockey pub, which marked the finish.

I finished in 6:20…a PB of 1hr20mins! I found out that the lads did it in 5:15. Seriously impressive! It was hard work but another big confidence boost. 

If you live in the area the Sandstone Trail is definitely a run you should do. Run it with friends and have a fun day out (pref with beers and a BBQ at the end!)

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