The Dales Way Challenge 2019 – Alistair Nash

The Dalesway – confessions of an ultra Runner…..

£2.98? Is that expensive or not? I never even got a second look from Skipton folk in that Superdrug, shoes off, mid-aisle trying to select the correct shade of nail varnish, with a few tester pots on the go…whilst getting advice from my wife. I’ve painted my toenails specially for my holiday in the Canaries. Not all of them, just the 4 that are in the ‘less healthy’ shades. There’s a greenish hue (all stocked by Farrow and Ball) – Wimborne White, a mid shade called ‘Moles Breath’ and then 2 in ‘blood blister black’ or ‘Down Pipe’ if we’re sticking with Mr Farrow & Mr Balls official shades.
Rimmel (toe)nail varnish (No.500 Caramel Cupcake if you’re interested) – a remarkeably lifelike tone. Once you get past the poxy little applicator brush, and swap it for a nice 2″ Harris ‘no-loss bristle’ (for those not familiar with builders merchant parlance – ‘a big paintbrush’), it’s quite blokey stuff, being a bit like Dulux One Coat, just sufficiently thick enough for a swift dab, no undercoat required – even over the darkest shades, and costs about the same price as liquid gold.
It’s not that I’m personally bothered, but unlike tough Yorkshire folk, camoflaging ones nails does help prevent the gag reflex from Johnny Foreigner holidaymakers in the pool. If I’d not taken part in the Dalesway Challenge, racing for 16 hours across 82 miles of mixed terrain from Bowness to Ilkley I would have never experienced such moments weeks later- truly the race that keeps on giving.
Way back in 2018, only moments after the Dalesway had been suggested as a race by Ryk Downes and Punk Panther Ultramarathons, I was signed up. All was going perfectly, a full winter of hard fell training, and a recce of the route on my birthday weekend. The expertly planned 2019 diary of build-up ultra races did not fare so well during the key months in the immediate lead up – a 6 hour distance challenge (DNS due to man flu) the Cortina Trail Ultra in the mountains of the Italian Dolomites (DNS after a torn hamstring – trail racing in the glamour location of Bolton) followed up by the Ben Vorlich ultra in the Highlands (another DNS – still hamstrung…) 5 weeks of inactivity…my mind festering over the likelihood of the Dalesway going down the pan as well, not helped by garmin connect telling me to move, and that I was becoming detrained. Thanks. By July I was back moving and it was make or break, just 5 weeks to get back in shape and not following the usual advice to build back slowly, thrashed out over 320 miles and almost exactly the height of everest in ascent, whilst repeatedly exposing myself to dehydration and ‘the wall’ as mental training. Race day came a knocking all too soon, a 6am bus convoy from Ilkley to Bowness, heading towards the lake district in torrential rain…after a week of torrential downpours. This is going to be moist.. replaces vest with tee, gets out jacket, hat, arrive at Bowness, its blazing…..puts away jacket & hat and vest back on. Hundreds of us tough ‘ard as nails ultrarunners huffed our way up Brantsfell road to the start, avoiding any mud or puddles. Go!! 2 minutes later we’re wading ankle deep, only another 16 hours to develop thtrench foot… Desperate to pace it properly and not go off like a twat, as per usual I then led for the first few miles. the Dalesway really twists and turns over the first 10 miles through to the checkpoint at Burnside, deceptively strenuous, but I was sitting comfortably in 3rd only a few seconds off the pace. Feeling great, only 72miles left😎. 10 miles now through to the M6 at Beckfoot- more twists and turns over roads paths tracks fields railways woods & moors. It was warming up nicely with a gusty westerly. Perfect. Still in 3rd but with a gaggle hard on my heels arriving at the checkpoint as I refilled another litre of water and snaffled a couple of bananas. 10 miles now through to Dent, with a stiff moor climb halfway through, Louise waiting for me somewhere near Dent so I could get a brew. Absolutely vital. Tea. Gallons of it Tea was going to be the vital part of my race plan, along with anything else I could force down. Turns out that’s crisps. Bloody gorgeous. Dent was getting a bit ‘ot. Probably the first and only time I doubted myself, 30 miles done just over 5 hours down, 52m left. Checkpoint 3 done – a swift zip over the moor/bogs to Ribblehead (with a stop for more tea at Dent Head Viaduct). The poles came into their own from here, helping to keep the hammer down and try gain on second – the elusive Ellis Bland, I’d keep on getting glimpses ahead…. Gearstones, checkpoint 4. Thoroughly filthy, thoroughly sweaty and thoroughly sure my toenails were both feeling mushy, not a great sign with 40miles left. A double mug of tea here as well (thats 4 now) and off to chase Ellis. A big long climb up Cam and then into bandit country…..the bogs across to Oughtershaw, 11km without even GPS tracker reception. So across at Buckden , Louise, joined by Kay and Tim were dot watching No52 on the tracking website and having a mini panic…. oh crap, tracker hasn’t moved, he’s broken, he’s fallen in a bog and died, he’s just died….. only as I came thundering into Buckden did they realise I was still going (really great local support on the bridge and a fantastic checkpoint) oranges, tea, more tea, some more tea (thats 7 cups) and crisps. Seabrooks salt and vinegar. Richard Smith had unexpectedly (but very much welcomed) joined the Coach Nash support crew and stated his intention to take position at each hostelry from Buckden to Grassington. That’s taking support to the next level. 5 checkpoints down, 53miles or so done, just 30 left and all on familiar terrain, zapping through to Kettlewell for more tea (that’s 9 now) and huge cheers from the crew (as they shall be known) off Kettlewell bridge. Feeling bloody great but definitely right the big toe is now oozy. Checked outside of trainer for blood…phew. Leaving Kettlewell with just the big ascent over Grassington Moor to get done before nightfall. With a full blood moon emerging you dont want to stray off the path… now Tim was apparently getting a bit nervous about keeping up 😂, as he was going to joining me for the last bit at night along the river through to Ilkley. The fact that at Grassington- checkpoint 6 – more tea ( thats 11 now) my world was a bit wobbly and I’d seen a bear (turned out to be a rabbit) Tim was feeling more confident about keeping up 😂. All lit up with headtorches ablaze it was a quick dash through to Burnsall and more cheering off the bridge (cup 12 – provided by the Red Lion) and straight off heading for Barden, where cup 13 awaited. Barden…. that’s just 10 miles or so left. 3 parkruns. 12 laps of Lister Park. Bolton Abbey checkpoint came in a flash, although Tim somehow managed to run through a (hallucinatory) giant stag despite my shouting…..never even flinched didnt the lad…. just a couple of riverside miles to Addingham….home territory and a brew (14) at the suspension bridge. 3 left. Just 3 miles. Dont bloody jinx it. Keep quiet. Just run. As the Ilkley Tennis Club came into view i did have a bit of a whoop, arms aloft past the finish line (although not quite finished) and started to sprint for the Dalesway end only 1/2mile further. 15hrs 59mins and 8 seconds I was sat on that seat. Done. Almost, just a sprint back to the finish. 16hrs 3 minutes. Way inside my estimate of 17-18. Just time for a medal, 3rd place trophy, congratulate Ellis in 2nd and a half past midnight cuppa (No15).
Huge thanks to the organisers, marshalls, random supporters and my ‘crew’ of Wife Louise, friends Kay, Tim and Richard and Tim again for accompanying me to the finish. What a day (and night).
As the race that race that keeps on giving, I also discovered soon after the finish that it’s possible to faint (twice) and still remain standing.
Finally, as i write this, a foreign child is screaming in the pool…..Rimmel ‘caramel cupcake’ may be the right shade but it can’t disguise a floating big toenail…. Take up ultrarunning. You’ll love it.

The Dales Way Challenge 2019 – Mark Limon

Long Winded Challenge Report

(no surprise to those who know me)

A Dales Way Day Out or the Road to Hell

How hard can it be I said to brother Kev , it is a tourist trail , it will be well defined riverside paths . It won’t be that much ascent as it follows the water course (That should have been my first warning) It might be a long way but easily navigational trail all the way. Like a day on the Cleveland way but not as hilly !!!!

We duly signed up and forgot about it as it was almost a year away.

Got some real good winter training in ,plenty of night runs a few long runs , The GB Pennine Barrier ,2 Kielder Marathons The Lyke Wake Walk ,other PP and Hardmoors events . All going well except for my stomaching rebelling in the heat on the PP High life with a DNF at mile 36 ish .

Anyway , even with all that , what seemed like 10 minutes after signing up it was just over 2 weeks to go and I strained my back dead lifting in the gym !! .

Given I had lost a week to being seriously ill in January. I know some called it a cold but with a temperature of almost 99f I know different!

An attack of gout for the first time in years cost me another 2 weeks and a mysteriously very achy foot another week, about a month lost in total. I was booked on the Hardmoors Farndale Marathon as the last proper training run before the two week taper and decided I could not afford to miss any more training so did it anyway .

10 minutes later I decided it was a stupid idea but i have started so i will finish. Another stupid idea. Painkillers and pig headiness got me through the very soggy and deceptively difficult route .

So that was that ,all preparation done and nothing more to do but plan for the day

26 bag pack rehearsals later it was a few days to go and our support team fell through so it was last minute rebooking of a hotel and a place on the bus from Ilkley.

A good surprisingly good night’s sleep and to the start were we met my sister and brother in law who were also taking part.

The day started well, lots of friendly faces waiting for the bus and then we were on our way. Very dark skies seemed ominous as we travelled across but it cleared up nicely as we arrived already registered on the bus with only our trackers to pick up and drop bags to drop !

Into the café and free bacon sandwiches , coffee and mars bars from the grateful Café Owner because I told him about the event and he opened specially for it and made a mint .

The day got even better when I went to the pay toilet just as someone was leaving, the swing gates were open and I was through, 50p saved , SCORE !! I felt ridiculously pleased about that and still do !

At the start and the atmosphere and excitement was building , nervous smiles abounded most were breathing a little more than usual after that very steep but short walk to the start.

A photo with my family and next thing we were away with at least 82 miles plus detours to go

The first 9 miles or so went by quickly , chatting to others as we went along with the field still close together but spreading out .

Trail got a little bit more challenging here and got my feet wet but no real difficulties although I did slip on the riverbank and managed to dip my left foot into the river,

Into checkpoint one with a lovely welcome by Bev, Dave and Paige, bottles filled, toilet stop a quick sandwich and away.

From this point on I spent most of the rest of the race mainly walking alone but criss crossing with Mark all the way to the finish .

Again no real drama on the way to checkpoint 2 with a couple of small detours but did end up with both feet soaked again but no problems , my Scott RCs drain and dry really quickly

It was it was good to see John Croall and other marshalls with Ryk in attendance at the check point and I was feeling really positive.

Only a 5 minute or so stop and on my way again although I did leave a sandwich on the table,

On the way to checkpoint 3 and the trail got a bit more challenging, flooded paths when you could see them, waterlogged fields, lots of cows in fields but all well behaved.

Again a couple of very small detours but never more than 50 metres or so ,got to love my Fenix 5 + .

Feet were soaked and a bit sore, with friction burns on my toes and hotspots .

Into Checkpoint 3 and the marshalls were lovely and cheerful. cleaned my feet as best I could and decided to wait until checkpoint 4 for the medics to sort them, did not even give my compeed plasters a thought, a decision which I paid for later big style !!

Checkpoint 3 to 4 was the real start for me , 32 miles done with legs feeling fine but realising just how far I still had to go . This was the most challenging section so far . Feet really giving me some pain , blisters , hot spots and in particular the soles of my feet were really uncomfortable and soaked through.

On the road to the viaduct a car pulled up and it was my sister who had been pulled out on medics advice after having taken ill and was unable to keep anything down .

Disappointed for her but I carried on up onto the moors, more ankle deep mud and water and starting to get dark

Met up with Mark again on the descent into 4 which as it was getting dark was made the trail hard to find . I just followed the GPX line on my Fenix and ploughed through the undergrowth to the road to Gearstones to in almost full darkness.

Into 4 which was a bit crowded but had a brilliant atmosphere. Dave got me a cup of coffee as I got my shoes and socks off as quick as possible.

What a sight, 5 blisters, 4 friction burns on the front of my toes and border line trench foot .

My feet were a real mess and still 40 miles to go and yet, the thought of stopping did not enter my head for a second, everyone was so positive and supportive and as I was getting my feet sorted by the medics Bev supplied the peanut butter and banana toasties, food of the gods.

Feet sorted and a cheese toastie also went down a treat.

Dry socks on , my Scott RCs do not retain much moisture so feet although a little sore felt loads better.

Resupplied from my drop bag , new batteries , baselayer , fleece , hi5 powder and sandwich all crammed into my now slightly heavy back pack .

Pitch black outside and with no one showing any signs of leaving I decided to crack on with Bev and Dave telling me they were sure I would make it.

I was glad it was dark as that long haul up that never ending hill would have been much worse if you could have seen how far it was to go.

Feet holding up well , a phone call to my wife after no signal for a few hours which made us both feel better

Reached the top and over and within 5 minutes realised 3 to 4 was a cakewalk compared to this.

Feet soaked through again , indistinct trails , muddy ground , hidden dips , for the first time ever on nightwalking I was seriously questioning my sanity being alone and that was just the first mile or so going down.

I caught up with 2 girls who were using a phone to navigate and overtook them. I thought they were following me but was so intent on following the route with my watch when I turned around and they were a couple of hundred yards behind.

I could not guide them as the indistinct trail meandered in the pitch black and so I cracked on .

My Fenix 5+ really saved the day keeping me either on track or close to it , however I was within inches of going over a 10ft drop before I realised it .That gave me an almighty burst of adrenaline .

Eventually through all the crap and onto a long path which was a relief although feet becoming a real issue again

After some small detours , a little unnecessary back tracking I crossed paths with Mark again but he was a little quicker than me .

I teamed up with 2 girls on some dodgy navigation through a field and then cracked on my own again.

I arrived at checkpoint 5 , in a little pain but mainly in good spirits , I was well over half way , only a Punk Panther Short Circuit to go .Stayed about 10 minutes or so and decided I needed to keep moving and followed another couple out .

I am not going to kid you ,checkpoint 5 to 6 was the worst ordeal of my trail running career by a long way to date . It was torturous , more flooded fields , indistinct paths , cows by the dozen and to top it off both my headtorches failed within 15 minutes of each other only working on the lowest setting.

For the first time I doubted I could finish , every step was painful and getting more so as time went on . I think if anyone had cuddled me I would have sobbed like a baby !

It was my lowest point so far. I was having some really weird conversations with myself interspersed with loud swearing

I caught up with Mark who was just leaving that village with the weird figures and dug out fresh batteries from my pack and took stock .

I sat a few minutes , considered crying and decided to stop whining and get on with it .

Caught Mark again as we went up that hill from Kettlewell , a slow grind up and we realised we had gone too far and high. Reluctant to lose the height we walked across toward the path and ended up on top of a very steep rocky drop to the path.

I thought no way am I going back so did a mad scramble down about 60/70ft drop.

Every step now was really painful but was getting light by now so no more real navigational difficulties . I criss crossed with Mark all the way to Checkpoint 6 where I had just about decided I could do no more especially as my feet were drenched again going down that flooded trail into the village.

Welcomed and guided into checkpoint 6 by the smiling and encouraging Kate Shaw I did my best to smile back . I sat down and asked the medic to have a look at my feet , they were shocking .

As he tended them Zoe Garvey appeared in her Cheerleaders outfit and chatted away to me . I found it all a little ridiculous and bizarre , what the hell was I doing to myself at 60 years old , in a car park early on a Sunday morning being chatted to by a lovely cheerleader and served tea and pasta by two really positive marshalls telling me not to worry , only 20 miles to go !!!

I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry but I was edging towards crying.

Feet patched up as best they could be but I just couldn’t bear to put my soaking wet muddy socks back on and made my mind up that I was definitely done , I had nothing more to give. We all have our limits and I had reached mine and was about to give my tracker in

Then Dom Garvey appeared with a pair of dry socks, not even trail socks .

I don’t know why or how but I felt my spirits lifting and laughed as he told me he had already wore them .

I really had reached my tipping point and that just tipped me the right way.

I thought bollocks to dropping out I am off , put them on , shoes back on, said my goodbyes and half hobbled and shuffled out intending to get to the next checkpoint to see how I was .

Feet had eased off but still painful and decided to sort of run/old man shuffle where I could which wasn’t much.

My sister phoned me really positive and encouraging, I suppose the best way to describe myself was semi hysterical . The conversation was a mixture of me sobbing a little and then laughing far too loudly, I knew I was still right on the edge but declared to her I am not stopping now and decided if I could move I was not stopping for anything.

Easy navigation to checkpoint 7 but how hilly was Bolton Abbey?, feet really in bits now but the Marshalls again were lovely although one got stung getting me some flat coke .

Not sure how long I stayed but it wasn’t long and out for the final push.

This was rather a blur. I had very little physically and mentally left , felt totally drained in every way ,very emotional especially when my Wife phoned me and I am not ashamed to say it , I could barely talk through the tears. She was really concerned but I pulled myself together, told her I was only a few miles away and on I went .

When I saw Jane and Billy at the top of some steps I cheered up when they called me Kev and their smiles and words of encouragement helped more than they knew .

I caught Mark again and we did a couple of miles together but I had to slow down as even though it was not far it seemed like another 82 miles to go as every step was like walking on hot coals .

Next thing I could hear my sister cheering loudly , Bev the same and others , that last run to the end was a little surreal .Ryk was telling me to go and look for something, eh !!! I got to the end walking like a cross between the tin man and someone who had shit themselves and in my mushed brain state was looking at the bench for something written on it asking these four takeaway eating teens to move while I checked it . God knows what I looked like to them, some deranged escaped lunatic I think.

And then it was all done, I sort of staggered ,shuffled the last few yards , did a pitiful high 5 with someone but I could barely raise a smile.

Over the line ,cuddles off my sister and applause from those there ,

I was and are proud of myself, I pushed myself further and harder than I ever thought possible by a long way.I went to some very dark places and had some really strange conversations with myself, sometimes out loud sometimes not, mostly involving swearing.

I have so much admiration for those who just got on with it and did the course without the drama of mine

I could not have made it without the marshals ,Bevs food , other runners encouragement , the medics but most of all and I am a 100% serious ,Doms old socks !!!