With this in mind, I thought that I would make use of the holiday time to spend a couple of days recceing the Round Rotherham 50 mile race route. The original plan was to travel down on Monday morning, run the last couple of hours of the route on Monday afternoon, then have a big day (35 miles) on Tuesday doing the rest of the course and then come back home on Wednesday.
However, I made the error of forgetting that Monday was a Bank Holiday with the related traffic problems (and the weather was fairly grim) so by the time we got to Rotherham it was too late to do a recce run. We rejigged our plans slightly so I could do the running on Tuesday/Wednesday instead which, as I woke up on Tuesday morning, seemed like a great move as it was a beautiful day.
For those that know the route, I accessed the course near Carlton-in-Lindrick, just after Woodsetts, and ran through Firbeck, Roche Abbey, Maltby Hooton Roberts, Old Denaby, through the finish at the college (Wath upon Dearne) and continued to the hotel at Brampton. A lovely 20 miles in 3:15 hours. The only problem was the thickness of some of the undergrowth, particularly the nettles and brambles as my legs will testify. The organisers produce an excellent road book, in the same fashion as the Lakeland 100 which, when married to a map, made the navigation fairly easy and I was surprised at just how much of the route I could remember from 5 years ago when I last did the race.
Wednesday was a different ball game with regard to the weather. This time, I started at the hotel and ran the remainder of the route, back to Carlton, passing through Elsecar, Wentworth, Dropping Well, Tinsley, Catcliffe, Treeton, Rother Valley Park, Harthill, and Woodsetts. Things were OK for the first hour and then the promised rain started and got heavier and heavier. Apart from the unpleasant running conditions, my main problem was trying to keep my road book and maps dry. Both were just printed off the computer and carried in a map bag which only did a partial job of keeping out the water, but I also had to swop the maps round at certain points which was difficult in the wet. I actually took to finding a telephone box as I passed through a village to find sanctuary and swapped the maps round. I was just about able to remember the bits of the route where the maps/directions had disintegrated and made it to Carlton to meet Tracey in the car. 5:15 hours for 30 miles.
I do not think I am in a position to run the whole course from memory but I can now navigate my way round with just a 1:50,000 OS map which I can read on the run without any problem, so I feel the two days were well spent and I am better prepared for the race in October.
I wore Hokas for both days of the recce and, whilst they were great for the first day in the dry conditions, going across the ploughed fields in the rain was difficult with the mud sticking to the shoes. In fairness to the Hoka shoes, it may be that the same would have happened regardless of what shoes I had on. (I do seem to remember this as being a problem in the race previously.) I will have to keep an eye on the weather during the build up to the race and make a decision at that time.
As I write this, I am following the CCC race and the build up to the UTMB race on Ultra Trail TV. It is such a shame that they have been blighted by bad weather again and the organisers have been forced to cut the courses short. The safety of the competitors is the number one priority and your heart has to go out to the runners and organisers who have prepared all year for this event. At some point I hope to be in Chamonix to attempt this race but would be gutted to miss out on the full experience.
Good luck to all those taking part.