Sunday 21st August saw me tackle the notoriously hilly original race organised by Pure Trail …… The Dartmoor Volcano. This was a 10.25 mile route starting and finishing in the village of Scorriton that included the highest point of southern Dartmoor, Ryders hill as well as Snowden and Pupers hill before hitting the ‘Volcano’. This is in fact just a spoil heap, the remains of Red Lake china clay works abandoned in 1933. It does however make an impressive target on the horizon to aim for and some great pictures! With almost 500 metres of ascent in not a huge distance you sure do notice that you’ve done some climbing.
The event base was well set up with lots of luminous signage helping you to your destination and then making it easy to find your way round once you were there. The village hall was stocked up with toast (pre race), cake, hot and cold drinks, plenty of seating and this time the added bonus of Runventure , a new Tavistock based independent shop, on hand with their own stall . This offered almost everything a runner could possibly have forgotten, from clothes, socks and trainers to hydration packs, buffs and gifts or mementos to remember the day by. More on this company soon as I’ve discovered they also have a club and offer guided runs so I will be investigating further.
Also on site were Alex’s Wood Fired Pizzas, a popular addition at the Hameldown Hammer. A welcome hot feed for the very damp and hungry runners at the end.
I love the laid back atmosphere of these events with everyone milling around at the start chatting. After an informal and humorous briefing from race organiser Mark Brooks I wasn’t the only one in the crowd almost taken by surprise when I realised he was calling 5,4,3,2,1 and we were off, no chance to get nervous! As promised the race began with a good 3.75 miles of almost continuous climbing. To start with we were on a nice gradual gravel track but after the first foot soaking river crossing there was a long steep grassy ascent that had everyone walking for as far as I could see.
Unfortunately the lovely British summer time sideways drizzle came in around this point which made admiring what I’m sure would have been fantastic views as we crossed this open moorland section impossible. It did make for a great feeling of really being out there in the wilderness though and after my struggle with the heat in the last race I really didn’t mind the wind and rain at all. From the high point of Ryder’s hill we had just over a mile of speciality Dartmoor peat bog to battle through to reach the Volcano. I thought this was great fun. Despite the energy sapping, shoe squelching nature of it, I several times found myself laughing out loud as I sunk to halfway up my shin yet again as I struggled to stay upright! The signs leading up to the Volcano were great, first there was ‘Why’ followed by I think it was ‘Perhaps its for’ halfway up the steep slope, then right at the top as you were being drenched and buffeted some more by the weather the last sign said ‘the legal high!’ I was most amused!
After mile 5 atop the Volcano the going was much easier with only a few more gradual hills, a fun technical little track through the valley alongside the river before a big long fast descent. It was scarey fast letting the handbrake off and flying with not much let up for almost 2 miles. In the very last quarter of a mile I was overtaken by another lady who, despite me really going for it, I could not catch. How she could go that fast on gravelly rock is beyond me! She was very friendly so for that plus a bit of admiration I forgave her!
I was very happy with how the race went and enjoyed the entirety of it. The aim for me on the day was to run the first 8 miles at roughly my target marathon pace of 12 minutes a mile which I managed to consistently keep. In all of my previous races, particularly the last I have made the mistake of setting out far too quickly which means I run out of steam halfway. Today I wanted to just chill out, take my time and learn to enjoy the atmosphere instead of letting it panic me. I even stopped to take pictures! It was a real confidence boosting experience to just feel like I was cruising along despite the hills and to reach mile 8 and actually want to speed up, especially as it was downhill. I finished the race happy and laughing, still feeling like I had more in the tank, which made today a success especially as I belatedly realised I’m meant to be in the tapering phase of my training now.
Saying all that, I did find my time of 2.03.47 and placing 84/113 a bit hard to take. Next year I will be back to race this one properly. I’ll be interested to see how much I can beat that time by. For now, less than 2 weeks to Marathon D-day. Eeeek!