This is a superb route, out from Tittesworth Reservoir through Upper Hulme to Ramshaw Rocks, then on round to Clough Head at the top of Gradbach Wood and up and over the Roaches and Hen Cloud. The weather was fantastic too. I met a couple of fellow Mercians at the start (Dale Colclough and Mike Perry) and also a mate from college, Martin Shelley.
There were 195 finishers this year (151 last year) and this created a bottleneck at a narrow bridge in the first mile where I had to wait over a minute. Another bottleneck follow fairly quickly at the next stile, which was a bit frustrating, but then we were away and running. There's a good boggy section of single track from Upper Hulme up to a road crossing beneath the final climb to Ramshaw Rocks. I ran the singletrack, overtaking a few who were picking their way through the wet bits, and hiked most (but not all) of the remaining climb to Ramshaw. I pushed a bit coming off and gained a few more places, then kept the pace high through the boggy mile to the next road crossing.
The route then descends a little more to run along Black Brook. A nice rough section of path along the brook leads to a steady climb up the left side of the valley and onto the lane which leads to Roach End. I kept running (albeit slowly) all the way up here, and on to the trig at the top of the Roaches, except for a few steep steps near the road.
I felt quite tired on top and eased off a little falling back 50 yards from the group which was just in front of me by the summit. The descent comes off left 300 yards after Doxey Pool and is quite steep and rocky but very runnable. I attacked hard here, passed most of the group and then tripped and went flying. I cracked my left knee on a rock, but was up again straight away and back into a rhythm.
I crossed the col to start up Hen Cloud and found myself having to walk again, but it's over quickly and I could attack again on the descent and retake a couple of places. I shared a nice run-out with a guy from Ashbourne RC and a West Brom Harrier. My Mercian team mates had come back up the track and some encouragement from Dale and Mike kept me going over the last few hundred yeards. This seems much further than it is and I arrived at the finish completely spent and just behind the Ashbourne and West Brom guys and a lady from Shelton Striders.
I was a little disappointed initially with my 1:47:27, but when the results came out today I checked back against last years and realised I'd not gone 50 seconds faster as I'd thought, but 10 minutes 50 seconds faster! Way to go!!!
Todays run was 9.75 miles and 1,850' giving a total for the week of 29.3 miles and 5,360' of ascent. The rolling four week total falls back a little as my Snowdonia weekend drops out, it stands at 118.9 miles and 20,560'.