Thursday, April 6, 2017

Slammer: From rookie fell runner to first ultra: In the Dale Trail Series classroom

I'm signed up for the full 2017 Dale Trail Series Grand slam and having done the DT20 over the weekend with 'SLAMMER' written next to my number it feels good to be back competing in such an awesome series. 

These races just have to be in the diary. Over the last year I have gone from doing my first fell run to completing my first trail and then a mountain ultra. The Dale Trail Series has been my learning curve and still is after a minor route error on the DT20! I have been thoroughly enjoying it and learnt so much over the last year about trail running.

OS map OL30 is more than sufficient for any recces and on the day not really needed at all as such due to the course being well marked and marshalled.

The races are three varied and enjoyable events (once completed that is) with each having something in challenge more than just the increasing distances, but that should not put you off as they are genuinely 'do it again' races and I would recommend the Grandslam to give that added incentive for every place when racing and if you like medals it's the only way your going to get one. Last year I managed an overall 29th place as a 'Slammer'; but this year after having done a course PB (46th) with last year coming in seems 2017 in the DT Series is going to be more competitive this year. But there is plenty of time between each race to put in the training miles and get out on those hills.

DT 20 Reeth

This is a favourite, the shortest but certainly not the easiest, with Fremington Edge looming large at the start, technical descents as you drop into the hush (gully) and signs to warn and taunt you like 'don't eat rocks' on the descent off Calver.

The start is a race to the first gate with a muddy/wet or 'dry' route which is a short detour round the walled lane for a non muddy option...mud it was all the way for me.
DT20 2017 Muddy option
The first mile of this race is a beaut, this year I was determined to go at it from the start and see how I faired, as I was aiming for a race PB. It's always surprising after the sprint for early positions and the charge through the 'muddy puddle' route option... which is my preferred favourite, that the first hill of Fremington Edge takes its toll earlier than expected - it is a dig in and keep moving climb, a run, hike, just keep going effort. The drop into the hush is a favourite section of descending, although this year, my head was down chasing feet and a few of us went down one too soon and had to climb out once we realised that we had got it wrong... losing time gained and a good number of places to boot.  Coming down from Fremington Edge there are two bridges to cross, a stream then the river and even a graveyard to run through before you cross the road and start the ascent to the top of Calver- which is of varying terrain. 
The final mile or so on undulating trail turns eventually into the field where earlier had been the scene of hard efforts from all to the first climb becomes the sprint to the finish looking over the shoulder to make sure no one catches you as the muddle puddle comes back into play.
DT20 2016- Fremington Edge in the background

 DT 30 Muker

DT30 2016
This race is by far the most sociable with the camping option near to the registration and a short walk to the start line, makes it an all in all a 'weekender' or at least an overnight trip. I went on the Friday night last year, but many stayed over the Saturday night and enjoyed the specially brewed 'recovery ale' around the camp fire. 
The start of this race is pretty special along side the river, and is a great location at the end of the race to relax and dip your feet, sit on the banks of the river Swale for that all important debrief with fellow runners. In 2016 it was a hot sunny day which surprised many of us. I didn't get my hydration sorted and suffered with cramp from 9miles in and with Swinner Gill still to climb that wasn't so clever. Lesson learnt because it turned what should have been the glory miles back down into Muker and through the meadows into a trudge. I'm hoping 2017 will be better for this race, as I feel I have unfinished business with the DT30.
DT30 2016 Swinner Gill
At the top of Swinner Gill was an water stop and having already given up on really racing last year by this point a quick turn around to look at the view was very rewarding. 
DT30 2016 Top of Swinner Gill

DT 40 Semer Water

This is a scenic but challenging 'marathon' distance trail race. Starting and ending at Semer Water. This was my best effort in the 2016 series and more the kind of distance I enjoy running, although saying that it still has to be run and fuelling well on this is important as by mile 15 when it starts to kick back up, it is at the point where I know I need that little bit extra to keep going both fuel and determination and it can be the breaking ground of any close fought Grand slam as it was last year in the women's race which I was able to witness in race... some great running, with sounds of the gates in your ears, listening as to whether ground is being made or lost.
The views on this route when the clouds allowed in 2016 were wonderful especially when your nearly back to Semer water and you catch a  glimpse of the finish in the distance.

After all its only 92km for that medal - worth it! I'm still using my La Sportiva mugs from last year. More importantly you'll meet some great folk at these highly recommended events. There are so many running events these days without character and soul and try to make up for it with a goodie bag or a crazy looking medal. The DT series are not those races, they have plenty of characer, great routes and by the end of it...they will leave you with a sense of achievement and memories of the ups and downs of being a 'Slammer'.
Grandslam 2016

No comments:

Post a Comment