Over the past ten years or so there has been a rise in the number of trail events in the UK.
This has led to a number of excellent race series being set up such as the Lakeland Trail Series, Hardmoors, Trail Outlaws etc.
I have previously praised the Hardmoors series of events for their friendly atmosphere and great routes. I do, however, need to mention the Dales Trail series in the Yorkshire Dales, in northern England.
The Dales Trail series of events comprises of three races of differing distances, each providing differing challenges, the DT20, DT30 and DT40. The number relates to the approximate distance in kilometres (I say approximate as trail races tend to be difficult to measure exactly and often finish up being longer than advertised. The DT40 for example, due to popular demand (not sure who that was!) has been made longer so that it can count as a full marathon, so it is just over 42km! An additional 2km free of charge!)
The DT20 is classed as the ‘exciting introduction to the Dales Trail series’. With the fantastic scenery, testing ascents and descents and superb organisation I can testify that the claim is correct!
The route is a circular route, starting and finishing at the lovely village of Reeth in the Swaledale area of the Yorkshire Dales. With close to 2400ft of ascent and the first major climb being within the first mile of the race, it is not to be taken lightly!
The area around Reeth was a centre for lead mining in the 17th and 18th centuries, but the history of lead mining in this area dates back to the Romans who transported the lead to Rome for use in their water systems! Although the mines are no longer in use, the area is scarred as a result. A method of mining called ‘hushing’ has left deep ridges in the landscape and these are a feature of this race.
During the race briefing we were informed that just after the start you have an option of a dry route or a wet one when passing through the first gate. I remembered this from last year. The difference is that the dry route involves a bit of waiting to pass through a gate. As I did last year I opted for the wet route. I expected that we would get wet feet at some point anyway!
The view of Fremington Edge from the race start. The race heads up to the White House then traverses to the right up to the top.
It is not long after this that the climbing starts. This first climb to Fremington Edge catches a lot of new fell runners (and runners new to this series) by surprise. All, apart from the elite runners walk up this hill. It certainly warms you up from the start. It doesn’t look too bad from down at car park level, but when you are halfway up and look back you see how small the cars in the field look and you realise how high you have climbed.
Halfway to the top. The orange start / finish point can just be seen in the middle of the picture!
I don’t think I was alone deciding what to wear for this race. It was a bit chilly at the start, but the sun was shining and it looked as though it may warm up. But running over the moors can catch you out…..long sleeve or short sleeve…or even vest? One or two layers…..raincoat on or off. A trio of ladies next to my car must have gone through every combination available. I finally decided on a long sleeved thermal top of the compression variety! However by the top of the first climb I was beginning to regret my decision. Even the breeze at the top of the hill was not enough to cool me down.
A long way back down – photographs never do justice to the gradient!
chance for a rest during the first climb!
At last – the summit of Fremington Edge
The first mile of so once you reach the top of the hill features a couple of stiles to climb over. Fortunately the first climb serves the purpose of narrowing the field of runners so that you do not have to spend too long here waiting to climb over. This section is very runnable, a little bit more of a climb before starting to descend towards the first major descent down towards Storthwaite Hall and into the hamlet of Arkle Town. It was a little bit boggy in sections (so much for avoiding the puddles at the start!) but generally a lot dryer than last year.
Waiting at one of the stiles on Fremington Edge
It is the descents on this race where, in true fell running fashion, you can make up any time you may have lost on the first climb. The previously mentioned ‘hushes’ create fast and technical downhill descents.
Last year I was a bit hesitant down these hills. I was unaware of what lay ahead, and it was a little bit slippy. This year I just let go and went for it. I was now running with more experienced fell runners, who had passed me last year and in turn I managed to pass quite a few of the more hesitant runners.
I was looking to test myself in this race. Last year I was coming back from an enforced layoff due to injury. This year I was a lot fitter and on a high from the Hardmoors 55 mile Ultra two weeks ago.
I had also made the decision to carry enough water so I didn’t waste time at the check points and just enough shotblok gels to keep me fuelled.
It wasn’t long before the next climb was upon us. The terrain here was rocky and a little bit more technical making it difficult to get a good rhythm going.
The weather had changed too. On this climb it had started to rain slightly. This then turned to hailstones, and the next thing we knew it had gone really overcast and started with thunder and lightning. Perhaps the long sleeve thermal top was a good choice after all! I had a chat with a girl who had gone through the same decision process and she had also regretted her choice of clothing until now! Hopefully it wouldn’t get that bad that I needed my waterproofs!
The next descent was the trickiest in the race. I remembered this from last year. It starts off with a sharp right turn before dropping down rapidly. I was slightly more hesitant on this descent as there are more opportunities to go wrong and take a tumble. I was still definitely quicker than last year though!
There was still another climb to undertake before the finish. This time over moorland followed by a gradual descent along a tarmacked section. By now you could see the finish looming and I knew it was only two or three miles away. After another gradual descent we were down at the level of Arkle Beck that takes us back to the start.
The next section is a roller coaster track with plenty of undulations to tax your now tired legs. The 55 miles from two weeks ago was now showing in my legs. This trail was muddy too so your legs were fighting to keep you upright. I was close to walking up some of the lumps now but just in time came to the final run down to the finish, across the fields we ran up at the start. I pushed as much as I could and crossed the finish line in 2:16:28….over 20 minutes faster than last year!
A bit muddy at the end before utilizing the local amenities!
Believe it or not, the sun was back out now! I changed out of my wet clothes and into something dry before heading to the village hall for my goody bag and some food. On the way back to the car I joined some other runners at Arkle Beck to make use of the natural washing facilities and washed the mud off my shoes and legs in the stream. Quite refreshing it was too.
I am now looking forward to the next race in this series, the DT30 in July. With a fast downhill towards the finish along the banks of the river, this was my favourite last year. However the DT20 will take some beating this year!
1st place Ben Livesey 1:20:37
1st Lady Elaine Bisson 1:47:50
Dave Mullaney 2:16:28 127th place out of 279 runners
Last runner 3:36:02
Positives and negatives with my race:
* My hydration and nutrition were adequate for this length of race. If it had been longer then I may have struggled.
* My downhill running was a vast improvement on last year
*My kit choice turned out to have been ideal with the changeable weather conditions. I was wearing new Inov 8 Roclite shoes which were ideal in these conditions
* I probably went off slightly too quickly and was starting to suffer over the last mile…noticeable as some runners I had passed earlier caught me up at this point!
Thanks to the race organisers, all the friendly marshals who gave up their time, and Paul at Foxgrove Photography for the excellent race photographs!
Questions for your guys:
Have you ever made the wrong decision with your running outfit / shoes etc and how did you overcome it?
What is your favourite trail race series?