It’s been a whole year since I last run this race, give or take a day of course. A year. 365 days. A momentous occasion, a rounded occasion. Celebrated quite rightly by a run. Every race generally is a year apart from one to the next. We all know that. However with the timing of it, The Ambles Revenge is a little more significant for it. Highlighted by the clear date of the race, aiming to fall as close as possible to New Year’s Eve! So in a year, a lot has happened. A hell of a lot, I’ll go through that separately some other time. Goals get set, goals get broken, new goals get set and they hopefully get broken. As we set out on the ever developing endeavour of improvement. I haven’t run the Hunshelf Amble course, not in a race anyway. So the Ambles Revenge is all I know. Personally, I find it tough. Of course I do, but I relish the challenge and relentless climbs. The battle around the course, psychologically and physically. The drive and pain of the Ambles Revenge.
Of late, races haven’t been ‘races’ they’ve been a bit of a sandwich of something else. They haven’t been targets or had something attached to them. You can’t target everything or run your heart out, all the time. That’s the fast way to injury. So November/ December has been taken as a base couple of months, with no targets attached. Getting my mileage in and building what I hope to be a strong base for 2019. Speed hasn’t dissipated, it’s just not the aim. Although training has on average got faster, my recovery runs have got faster; but the need for top end speed isn’t there. It will come. The week off of work for christmas has been great, runs have been plentiful and sleep has returned to my daily life. It’s been relaxing and enjoyable just doing anything. With parkruns a plenty this time of year, its been great to keep everything local and within our knitted running family. Seeing faces, sharing conversations and just getting out to go running.
The Ambles Revenge anyway, in 2017 I was one of the lucky ones in which I got to run the Revenge route twice. With it being held on the 2nd of January and 31st of December. Missed the summer route, due to working at the time of the race. My times though were 58:15 in January and 56:25 in December, giving me roughly a 2 minute improvement over the year. Getting 9th place in January and 1st place in December, mainly down to Scott getting lost. We’ll not talk about that. But it involved, apparently, tape blowing in the wind and he followed it. Bringing him out at the bottom of the climb, only for him to do it all again, again. So a quick refresher of the route felt necessary for anyone out there. Myself getting lost in the January edition, finding myself on the Stocksbridge bypass, skipping all of the wood climb with about 5 other runners. Again reinforcing the fact that route revision was necessary. Glancing at previous times in the process, Stuart Vas/ 54:02, Paul Johnson/ 55:22 and Gareth Cooke/ 56:25. Through the last 3 and every running of the event, so ideally looking at any time around that.
Saturday evening, we had family round at the house, food wasn’t what you call perfect preparation. A leftover christmas style buffet, with little amounts of quality carbs but plenty of bread, my body hates bread. Got into bed fairly late, but arranged a lift to the race with my mum. So I could run home afterwards. Woke up late by my standards and set off to Oxspring at 9.40, ran out of my usual breakfast, so had to have something different but one of my old favourites; porridge and nutella. Got to Oxspring for 9:55, parked on Roughbirchworth Lane. Small walk to the wagon, chatting to David Lee. Went upstairs, got my number and started milling around and talking to people. Then off I went for a shotgun warm up, only a mile, out and back on the TPT. Before eventually again finding myself walking up to the start, only to bump into Norman Cole, who had come out to watch the race start. Should have been an official starter like a local celebrity! Everyone knows Storming Norman, had a chat with him about things and checking to see how he was. Before then making my way forwards and he walked down the trail to watch us without getting trampled on! Stood around talking to runners a plenty before being approached by Steve Dickinson, a few jokes about Scott getting lost. Some last minute route guidance shared, with tips and advice. Then we was off.
Flying down the trail with the wind at our backs, as always I set off quick and found myself out in front. Setting my early pace and getting that average up, it’ll come way down later! Like running down to the tunnel on a wednesday night. Oh, wait, we are! Then a slight detour left up and over, away from something familiar, to something known but of recent not really ventured. Up and over the tunnel, flying down hill again eventually. Last year, full of ice! So today felt extremely fast, enjoying it and feeling alright. Before hitting the bottom and now onto the road section of the famous Trunce. Ready for the first challenge and what that always hurts my back on the Trunce, the field ‘jump.’ Down the wall and into the field, didn’t hurt the back today! Through the narrow bridge and my race began to take a sharp change, a misplaced foot on exiting the bridge. Kicking my own calf and giving myself a dead calf. Mistake. Trying to climb with what felt like lead in my lower leg. Thankful for avoiding the awful quarry climb today. Getting up and out of the ditch.
Struggling to make the climb and eventually loosing my place or places. Falling back in the field. Driving forward though and working, with some pain. Silly fool. Pain started to ease a little, the more I ran on it, creasing my face and the downhills were the hardest part. Navigating our way through the woods and trees, over loose rocks and soft mud. Course conditions felt great today! Popping out momentarily on some down hill road, I began to make some ground up on 2nd and 3rd out in front. Before banking around the bend, to instructions follow the stile it comes up on your left. My route revision allowed me to know how far that left was, success! Veering off road and again through some woods and even softer mud downhill, calf pain returned and I took my foot off of the gas. Not allowing myself to push any harder. Being thankful for when the soft mud ended and on the compact trail again, skirting around the edge of Tin Mill. Momentarily flat, for once! Only then to find myself on the climb of climbs, on your hands and knees, well if you fell down the banking anyway. Grinding it out and slipping and sliding my way up, making some ground again on the guys in front, now finding myself in 5th place. A quick check of the shoulder led me to believe there was no one else behind. It was now a smaller race than it was before, despite there being more entries than in previous years. Working hard up this hill though, no matter where you are in the field.
Looking up the best I can, just to see everything that I’ve got to come. 9 minutes and 16 seconds it took me to do that mile! Up and beyond, seeing where I’d gone wrong in previous years already and again noticing where Scott went wrong in previous years. On the top of the world, though, what it felt like anyway, glancing my way over the Barnsley and left slightly down to Stocksbridge. Stile after stile followed by gate after gate. Clipping my calf a few times but not as painful as before. To find myself on the part of the route that is shared with Leg 7 of the Barnsley Boundary. Eventually. Climbing the short sharp section of Pea Royd and then getting to the top, calf on fire, as well as my quads and glutes! Working hard. Veering off road and racing down the paths to make a pointless public footpath downhill only to painfully climb back up it again. Then reaching a farm house that I’m familiar with again from the Boundary run, recognising the approach and territory, absolutely grateful for the all downhill from here knowledge. Approaching with pace and possibly a little too fast, I slipped on a slab of stone, again kicking the back of my calf in the not so gracious stumble. Much, much worse than before. Painfully stepped forward and carried on, pain struck and wounded. Not feeling good now. The lead in my calf feeling heavier and heavier.
Seeing Damien at the top, not having the energy or conversation level to reply. Flying downhill, dipping in the field and every step feeling painful and tight. Like I had plenty more to give but just couldn’t let go. Reluctantly climbing walls, approaching stiles and gates; as they break my rhythm and slow the process and begin the process of speeding up again. Finding some relief in the larger road sections we had left. Navigating through the little woods and fields. Then hitting the last little bit of road, now this is my territory. Around 25 seconds behind on the guys in front, as I was entering the fields, they were leaving them. I knew that on the road, I could really let my legs go. So as I left the last wall climb behind, I let my legs fly.
Making ground with every single step, hitting what I felt like was top speed at the time. Literally all downhill from here, knowing the road, the ruts the holes and the turns. Working as hard as I possibly could anymore, digging in and just letting go. Kicking and thrashing my body forwards on the route. Catching them out in front, narrowing the seconds from 25 to at least 15 before we turned off of the road and down onto the path towards the Trunce route and eventually the finish. Trying to keep my racing line central, as that is where there is the most runable ground. Spying Paul Johnson out in front as he gave a check of his shoulder, he knew now that I was heading in his direction. Eventually hot on his heels as we approached the TPT bridge, I went past him. Which lead to a perfect sprint finish between us both.
Working our way down, looking at the finish. Hunting it down. We both crossed the line, with him pipping me by a flaring arm. Just. Giving us both the time of 52:37.
All in all, a great race. Thoroughly enjoyed it and enjoyed the challenge of it all. Ran 6.5 mile back up as planned and now to nurse the slightly aching calf from my morning mishaps. But a 4 minute course PB for me in a time which beats the current course record by a minute and half, Scott smashed it by 3 and half minutes though! A fast field for the Ambles Revenge this year, also with 22 people beating the one hour mark and the course record for the males being smashed.
Thank you as well to Carol Wolstenholme, her husband Lionel, Steve Frith, Damien Briscoe and Mark Riordan for the photos. They’re all great!
I’ll post something separate about my year tomorrow, still in the process of compiling it!
Just Keep Running!