The tour I had been waiting for was finally here…the awesome Tour of Tameside. An event that spans back many years with some rich history, now standing tall as a 4-day event comprising of a 10km, 6mile, 1/2 marathon and 7mile race. Here is my awesome journey of the 4 days.
Survival. That was my simple aim in this tour. Well, that and enjoying it, of course! Enjoying it? ha! I must be sick in the head!
Having taken part in the Rochdale Harriers 3-day tour just a few days previous, I was on a survival mission at best. You shouldn’t be expecting to see a picture further down of me stood on the winners podium! (one day, Pete!)
The first day starts on the trails near Oldham rugby club. Certainly my preference over an all out road event! There were some ups and down, with a few of the tougher climbs being in the first 1.5kms. Once these were out of the way I didn’t feel there was too many thigh burning climbs. It was mainly quite flat trails with the exception of the mini-rollercoaster effect that could be experienced in some of the latter stages through the woods. These are the parts I always enjoy the most, especially when I see lots of random stairs! (sicko stair lover!)
That’s right, I love stair climbing and also bobbing back down them on the other side! I tend to not view obstacles as a negative for myself, but more as an area that will defeat other people in the race. When I see a few sets of stairs that need attacking I always think of how bad everyone else will feel when they set their eyes upon them with their tired legs hahaha. I know, I am a bastard! Don’t get me wrong, I want everyone else to do great in the race, I really do, but as I discovered last year when doing obstacle courses, I tend to be fast at getting through these parts and gaining a few seconds on most other runners around me. It’s on the flats I am not so impressive!
For a quick overview of this cracking race, just view my video below. I love a quick race video!
Friday night. I have had a good 24 hours to recover from the trail race and there are already a few aches in my body. Funnily enough, they are not leg aches but back aches! Where the hell they have come from is beyond me. I did have a post-race 15-minute leg massage thanks to the volunteers from Sports Tour International who had a physio tent set up just next to the finishing line on day 1 and it is almost like my back needs a massage as well just to even me out. My back is jealous! It’s a hard life! haha.
Well, I had been feeling a little lacking in energy when it got to the end of the working day. I don’t think it was necessarily due to the race on day 1, more that this second race involved another day at work rather than the usual weekend races where it is a quick breakfast and then away we go!!! The amount of caffeine I consume during a working day probably has a lot to answer for on this one too!
Having said that, I left work and started to get geared up for the race. By the time I had got home and changed into my racing gear, I was feeling a little more lively. Then by the time I got to the start line I was ready for action again! I felt in perfect condition. Ah, how the mind and body can mess with me!
This race is really simple to explain due to the straight-forward layout. It pretty much goes up for the first half and down for the second! haha. You can’t get simpler than that!
Off we go! Starting at Copley reservoir and heading through a very nice local estate via Stocks Road, Stalybridge and onto Mottram Old Road, after a decent climb through the roads, we headed onto Mottram Road before heading up the steep Hobson Moor Road. This was where things started getting fun for me (I realise I am odd). Not long after this stint of road action you hit the grass and the trails. The climb really does continue to be tough until somewhere near the 3 mile mark and then there’s a good few downhill sections.
Some of the downhill pathways are tricky to navigate, especially when there’s a few runners coming down in a cluster! It’s so easy to not quite see what angle of terrain you are about to come down on so watch out if you are flying down some of these fells. Still…it is damn good fun! I have certainly learned how to handle my downhill running far better than I could earlier in the year. I can’t get enough of it.
I was really happy with this run. I didn’t time it or wear my watch, I simply ran at a pace I felt was always mildly uncomfortable, but never so much that I was killing myself. Let’s face it, there was still a half marathon to race and a 7 mile road race the day after that! I need to keep some in the tank. I am slightly full of sh*t though as for about the last mile, I am not sure I could been going any faster! I now seem to hit a point during my downhill running where, if I know that it is the last section of the race, I will literally leg it! Full on. Nobody is beating me in the last section. I just will not have it! haha.
I woke for today’s race feeling pretty good. Out of all of the events, this was the one I was looking forward to the least. It is well known for being a tough mental test because it is pretty much one big straight flat trail for over 7 miles before a u-turn back down the same track and then finishing off on the grass just off the Longdendale trail. It isn’t exactly an exciting track to keep your mind ticking over. It is a real tester due to the fact that there is little else to think about except for your run. Something that can mentally beat the best of us!
Boredom? Fatigue? Or Both?
On my previous half marathons, I have always used my Garmin watch to time my km marks so I can aim for a particular time, but for the High Peak Half, I didn’t bother at all. I did exactly what I have done for the 2 days prior to this event. I found myself a pace that felt only mildly uncomfortable and tried to keep it as consistent as possible.
This seemed to keep me in good shape for about 2/3rds of the race, possibly slightly more, but once I got to the 10-mile mark I could really feel my pace slipping. I used an energy gel to get through the last half of the race, taking in about 1/4 of the sachet every 10 minutes rather than using the full gel in one helping. Personally, I think this is a much better way of consuming them as it should, in theory, help with the sugar crash afterwards as you are causing smaller spikes in your blood sugar over a longer time by eating it this way. Winner winner!
I think the gel I used combined with the dried cranberries I eat from my pocket as I run certainly helped get me across that finish line with my usual sprint finish. Although not quite as powerful a finish as on the previous days events. I finished with a time of 1:41:20. My slowest half marathon time, but given the situation I was in, doing a 4-day event and having only done a 3-day event a few days before, I am fairly happy with the time. I can’t possibly expect to beat my time from previous half marathons where I have just been training up to that 1 single event.
You can view the full results from the High Peak Half Marathon here.
Why am I awake? How long have I actually slept for this week?
These were my thoughts when I was getting out of bed for the final day! It wasn’t so much my body that was tired but my mind. I felt like I needed another night’s sleep before even contemplating getting my running shoes back on. How would I combat this huge lack of energy I was suffering from? Well, there was only one answer….my banana outfit! haha. Yes, it had to be done. I know that the Tour of Tameside is a very serious event and don’t get me wrong, I take my running seriously, I really do, but this event was in the town where I live…I have done so much fun running in my fancy dress outfits that it seemed wrong to not bring those smiles to the people right near my home.
Having already put the banana suit on and jogged down to Hyde from my house 10 minutes away (for maximum laughter, of course), I knew this was going to be tough as I am about 20 degrees hotter when I wear the suit. It’s like a sauna! This is counter-acted by the overwhelming support I get when I wear it, though. The locals around Hyde and Hattersley were brilliant. I got all of the usual encouragement I get when running as a banana and this genuinely gave me that extra gear to power on through the pain of the previous 4 days.
The Race Route
This is an area I am very familiar with as I cover a lot of it regularly when I go out with the Sweatshop runners. Beginning outside of Hyde Town Hall, I headed up Market Street towards Stockport Road, Gee Cross. This is a fairly tough rise uphill and continues to be this way for the first half of the race when I finally get to near Hattersley roundabout. At this point, I headed back into the estate and past Ken Ward gym (my gym!) back towards Mottram Rd which leads back through to Hyde. So the final bit of climbing is through the estate in Hattersley. A road I have struggled on before after making the mistake of running 10km before going playing football and then attempting to run home again (idiot).
Market Street…I had you for breakfast! I had you on toast! I bloody gobbled you up! Beast!!!
Yes, it is fair to say that I was very happy with my finish on this final day. It had to be done. All of the elements added up. When I appeared at the very top of Market Street, I knew that this was it…I had 1 last push in me. All I could think about was running as hard as possible to end this gruelling 4 days that I had pushed myself through. As I focused down the High Street though, I had to remind myself that there was still several hundreds of metres to go. Sprinting for half a mile (the actual length remaining) was not an option. Don’t get me wrong, I can sprint well but half a mile? Don’t be so bloody ridiculous!
I spotted 2 runners that were well ahead of me at this point. I wondered if there was even half a chance that I had it in my legs to get near to them. I knew the finishing line was going to be full of supporters and I wanted to give it everything for them at the end.
Once I got halfway down this road I knew that it was now or never…it was time to make my move. I went into absolute overdrive. I managed to get past the people who I had picked out at the very top of the street. That was probably the hardest I have ran in any race. I really did give it everything that I had left in the tank.
I was finished. I was happy. Not only that, my good friend Chris had come to see me cross the line and that is always a great feeling to get a hug from a top mate at the end!
I finished 43rd out of 173 in the male category. I am really pleased with this result and in all honesty, after this tour and the Rochdale tour last week, I am simply pleased to be breathing and walking! haha. To view the full list of results for the overall tour click here.
My Final Words. I sound like Jerry Springer!
The Tour of Tameside…well, you cheeky little beast! What have you put me through over the last 4 days? There has been ups and downs, that’s for sure. My brief summary of the 4 races is this:
For those of you thinking about doing the tour next year, just do it! I never discourage people from taking part in races. In fact, I am an awful person to know if you want discouragement of any kind haha.
Get signed up for 2017 and feel the burn!!!
What a weekend…And I am spent.
Oh, one last word…I just want to say a huge thank you to everyone who helped organise the event. The volunteers, the staff from the tour, the Sports Tours International crew, and of course last but by no means least, the runners who I had the honour of running along side. You are all legends!