2011 Longmynd Hike

So back to the Longmynd Hike for the third year in a row and a chance for my annual fun 50 mile overnight hike around the picturesque lands in Shropshire with a couple of buddies. Joining me this year were Frank and Matt (Fetch: Cheeky Conswala) and we also knew that Shane was taking part although he had planned to strike out on his own and run it ahead of our planned group.

We travelled up the Friday night and stayed at a local travelodge and after a reasonable nights sleep for myself and Matt (but not Frank who had a room opposite ours and was kept awake by the noise of traffic during the night) we walked the full distance of about 20 yards to the local Little Chef for a big breakfast. One Olympic breakfast and a Pancake Breakfast later and I was full to bursting point and retired to my room to organise my kit.

We arrived at Church Stretton about 10am, checked in, had our equipment checked and then wandered towards the shops for a light lunch before returning to collect our gear from the car and make our way to the start for 1pm.

The weather was absolutely glorious and warm, really warm. The requirement to carry waterproofs, woolly hats, gloves etc felt a bit unnecessary due to the heat but there was no relaxing of the rules which is disappointing when its obvious that a lot of the runners must have dumped a lot of the required kit from the small sizes of their hydration packs but rules are rules and these are in place for the safety of competitors at night so one must obey.

2011 Longmynd Hike 2011 Longmynd Hike

We started out at 1pm and headed towards the first summit Caer Caradoc and Checkpoint 1 (2 miles). Our plan was simply to walk and finish although we were looking to get past the Stipperstones (an ugly area of rocky paths) before it was dark. We headed up the first summit over the top of this and then onto the second summit The Lawley and Checkpoint 2 (4 miles) immediately afterwards. I managed to progress ahead of Matt and Frank but saw them on the way down The Lawley and agreed to wait for them at the bottom where I took on some water, ate some food and took a few pictures.

In an amusing coincidence I bumped into a couple of girls who I had been grouped with the previous year and said hello.

Frank had started to struggle a bit here and it took him a little while to get up and down the slope, the pace had slowed and we were near the back of the group already. I admit to being a little frustrated at this point as we grouped back together. What was also evident that the heat was taking its toll on some runners and I could see a number of red faced runners huffing and puffing up and down the slopes and thought a few are going to drop due to the warm weather.

2011 Longmynd Hike

2011 Longmynd Hike
2011 Longmynd Hike

We continued towards Checkpoint 3 (High Park). Frank had already started to give signs of wanting to pull out and I suggested I carry his pack for a few miles to give him an easy few miles to recover. To be fair, he was reluctant to receive any assistance but eventually agreed. We continued on but it was evident he was not improving and shortly before the Checkpoint he decided to pull out. He could have carried on a bit further but had decided not to slow the team down any further and made a bit of a sacrifice for the team. I think a combination of lack of sleep, general fitness for the event and the heat had all contributed towards the event, this was proof that Longmynd is a tough event whether you walk or run it.

I gave Frank my car key as I had left a sleeping bag in the car and Matt and I pressed on to Checkpoint 3 where we made a brief stop and then pushed on. I was determined that we should try and make up some time and set a brisk walking pace and we soon started to pass quite a number of people as we made our way up a gradual incline before we arrived at Checkpoint 4 (Pole Bank – 10 miles).

2011 Longmynd Hike

2011 Longmynd Hike

After another brief stop we pushed on again and continued to overtake a few people as we headed back in the same direction before taking a left and a downhill track towards Checkpoint 5 at Bridges. We arrived at the pub at Bridges where we stopped for a refreshing pint of Orange Juice and Lemonade each and ate some food before carrying on. Whilst it was still light, we were then grouped up for the night leg just after the Checkpoint. As the minimum size of the group was 3 people, we were held for a few minutes until 2 more walkers arrived (Ruth and Dyllis) and after some brief introductions our group of 4 carried on up the road towards the Stipperstones.

There were still quite a few walkers visible both ahead and behind us but we were familiar with the navigation at this point and made our way over the Stipperstones in the light to Checkpoint 6 (Stipperstones – 15 miles). It must have been about 6pm’ish when we checked in here and I recall thinking we had only just covered a half marathon plus a couple of miles, it’s going to be a long night!
2011 Longmynd Hike

2011 Longmynd Hike

The next Checkpoint was Earls Hill and I had a call from Frank whose wife had come to pick him up and he wanted to make arrangements to hand back my key. We agreed to meet at the Mytton Pub which we passed on the way to and back from Earls Hill. The group were still getting on well and working together as a team with myself pacing the group and Dyllis navigating with precise accuracy (the benefit of living locally and researching the route). I was pretty familiar with the areas I had covered in the light but when it’s dark you don’t really appreciate the landmarks and my previous excursions at night were a bit of a blur.

We made our way up Earls Hill, had our tallies clipped and headed down to the Pub where we stopped to get some water and meet Frank before continuing on towards the next Checkpoint 8 (Bank Farm – 22 miles). It was now late evening (around 10pm ish) as we got to Bank Farm. As we had a stop at the pub we didn’t feel the need to stop here and checked in and out before heading towards the next checkpoint.

2011 Longmynd Hike

2011 Longmynd Hike

Dyllis’s directions were excellent as she took us a more direct route than I had covered last year. Whilst I had little doubt I could navigate around, it was evident that I had added on a couple of extra miles in previous years by taking different paths (perhaps hugging the comfortable flat roads as opposed to using footpaths).

Matts pace had started to slow as we approached Checkpoint 9 (Shelve – 27 miles) and he decided to call it a night there citing no energy in his legs. We all tried to persuade him to continue but to no avail and Matt dropped out at the same point as last year. He could have carried on a bit further but the knowledge of a steep summit ahead had likely influenced his decision to retire.
The group of 4 became 3 and I carried on with Ruth and Dyllis at a steady pace as we made our way up Corndon Hill and back down the other side. Ruth had started to mention she might pull out at the next stop and I tried to persuade her to carry on. Fitness wise, she looked fine but mentally I think she decided she wanted to retire and by the time we got to Checkpoint 11 (Woodgate Farm – 32 miles)  she had decided to retire. I was getting a feeling of déjà vu here with all my buddies pulling out.

Dyllis and I were paired up with another group of 4 (Mike, Steve, Ann and Rona I think) and our group of 6 carried on although Steve was suffering from blistering and needed to attend to his feet a couple of times earlier on but seemed to recover well. Interestingly, I had no blisters to speak off. The combination of compeeds on usual blister points, toe socks and pre-applied sudacreme was working well.

2011 Longmynd Hike

The weather was still reasonably warm although there were pockets of cold and warm air in points which felt a little strange but I didn’t feel the need to wear anything else beyond a base layer and GUCR t-shirt (which got a few questions and comments) and a pair of shorts.
We made our way in total darkness now towards Black Rhadley and Checkpoints 11 A & B and them Checkpoint 12 (Black Rhadley Hill 35 miles) which was probably the easiest summit of the lot. There was a slight split in the group as with Dyllis needing to keep up a steady pace to stop her legs from cramping and the rest of the group wanting the odd pause and we hit on a small compromise where Dyllis and I would continue on at a slow pace and wait for the others at key turning points. This seemed to have the desired affect as Dyllis’s directions were spot on and the remainder of the group were happy for her to navigate.
We made our way back towards the Stipperstones Car Park (although you pass in a different direction and avoid the worst bits) to Checkpoint 13 (38 miles) and we continued on towards Pole Cottage. By now it was starting to get light as you could see traces of orange on the horizon.

As we plodded into Checkpoint 14 (Pole Cottage 42 miles) it was light and permission was given to split the groups and carry on at your own pace. I had a quick chat with Dyllis and whilst we had encouraged me to press on at my own pace their was little point as I had no goals or targets apart from getting around with my buddies and I agreed to stick with Dyllis until the end. With my pacing and her navigation we made a good team and it would be a shame not to finish it together.
2011 Longmynd Hike

2011 Longmynd Hike

The rest of the group elected to stop for a few minutes and get a drink and we plodded on at a steady pace after passing on some directions but the route back was pretty straightforward now.
As we headed towards Minton we could see other walkers ahead. At night you feel isolated but in the light you can see plenty of people around you which is always some comfort. We made our way down the long sloped path to Minton used the un-manned checkpoint and headed towards our final challenge Ragleth Hill. In the distance we could see little shapes making their way slowly up the hill.

We walked towards the hill and then started our ascent. We made our way to the top of the hill and paused to get a few pictures before passing Checkpoint 16 (Ragleth Hill – 48 miles) and continuing on towards the finish a couple of miles away. We headed off the footpaths and into Church Stretton and made our way towards the finish at the school where Matt met us having not really slept at the school overnight. We registered our finish times and said our good byes before I had a nice hot shower, got changed and enjoyed the cooked breakfast on offer. I spoke to Shane on the phone who finished in a good 16-17 hours which was much better than he did a couple a years ago so well done to him.

2011 Longmynd Hike

2011 Longmynd Hike

2011 Longmynd Hike

We stayed and watched the presentations. The event was won by a woman (Val Swingler in just over 10 hrs) for the first time in its history which was a great achievement and there were various other awards for finishers and groups. Apparently, out of 550 entrants 100 were no shows (which is disappointing when there’s a large reserve list) and over a 100 pulled out due to various reasons but dehydration was a key one. This was the highest attrition rate they’ve had in years apparently.

And so after a couple of years of social hiking, I’m planning on running it with Stouty (haven’t told him yet) next year and putting a bit more effort in and knocking a few hours off my hiking time.
The next day my legs were fine and I went for a short run with no ill effects. I was a little tired from lack of sleep on Saturday but the fact that this was a walk and not a run felt that I hadn’t exerted myself and everything felt well rather comfortable. I think my fitness has improved a bit since last year as the hills felt easier (i.e. less calf strain and breathlessness up some of the hills) than I recall in previous years and I’m no hill warrior really.

Overall, as I’ve said before it’s a brilliant well organised event which is challenging, enjoyable and offers great views. The marshalling is excellent and the event is great fun and a steal at £22 for the entry, drink and checkpoints, a cooked breakfast and somewhere to bed down for the night.

Advertisements