Race Reports, February 2009

High Cup Nick Fell Race, Dufton, 28th February

Two reports, first from Dougie Nisbet:

Dufton is quite a bit further from Durham than you might think, and if you don't want to arrive 15 minutes before race start in a bit of tizz, it's worth being a bit more organised than I was. I registered, relaxed and looked around. Hallo, what's this, another Striders vest! Nigel was being interrogated by an earnest lady who wanted to know whether he was looking forward to the race. They were having a bizarre conversation on wind when I bounded up and said "Hello". He wasn't looking too good. A bit peely-wally it has to be said, recovering from a persistent cold. But more on that story later.

We wandered the few yards from registration to start and I couldn't help notice the abundance of base layers underneath everyone's racing vests. I looked down at my bare arms and legs and then up at the clouds and realised that I may have committed a rather serious and extremely chilly logistical error. It was warm in my house when got up, so it'd be warm at High Cup Nick. Or something.

As we waited at the start we got into a bit of a bidding war about who had run the least over the last few weeks, who was feeling the most wretched, and whether Nigel's cold could outbid my over-enthusiasm for steak and red wine the previous evening. We would find out. My race plan was to run, 'speculatively', and if throwing-up looked unlikely, pick up the tempo.

Off we went and off he went. Nigel soon became a speck and I settled down. As with many fell races you have the rather humbling view of seeing exactly where you're heading unfolding before you. High Cup Gill drifted into view and the cloud loitered around the valley with mischief on its mind. As we climbed steadily up the valley I began to feel better and passed a fair few runners. I was feeling pretty comfortable. Nigel kept appearing on radar, walking, then he would break into a run and disappear again.

It was on the climb up to High Cup Nick itself that I passed Nigel. Feeling pretty pleased with myself I gathered ample photographic evidence just in case challenged later in court. It's a dramatic broody climb up to the top and I loved it. Over the top and a furtive glance back and I had made good gaps over many of the runners I'd passed and was feeling pretty smug.

There's some fantastic descending in this race. It's mostly runnable. Charging down through the cloud with glimpses of other runners ahead was an exhilarating experience. It couldn't get any better. And it didn't. A steady trail of familiar vests that I thought I'd seen the last of filed past and I just couldn't match their speed. And then, a few miles from the finish, Nigel sailed past with a cheery nod, looking a million times better than he did on the ascent. Not for the first time the phrase "Nigel, you bastard!" was heard to utter from a Strider's gob. [Nor the last time either, I expect. Ed]

It was a good run into the finish and then just a few short yards to soup and warmth. The day was nicely rounded off with a photo shoot by a student who wanted to build a portfolio of portraits of Fell Runners "looking tired". No shortage of volunteers there.

Nigel being photographed by Dougie in the mist and the murk.

... and from Nigel Heppell:

Knowing that Striders, as of Wed's night, had a full men's team lined up for Cramlington, I excused myself from attending the Harrier League and denied myself the chance to help out in the eating of cakes afterwards, and headed off over the Pennines to try out the 9mile, 1500ft, High Cup Nick fell race for the first time.

I left home in warm, bright sunshine looking forward to spectacular views over the Lake District and the dramatic geology of High Cup Nick itself. It began to rain at Barnard Castle and stayed overcast and damp for the rest of my time in the west. The small village of Dufton was a rather soggy venue for the start/finish but it was brightened up by an array of 140ish runners in all manner of colourful kit, and a few familiar friendly faces - although how I know what they look like when I normally only see them from behind during a race is one of life's little mysteries. Shortly before the off Dougie Nisbet turned up as the only other Strider (Will Horsley ran as NFR).

DN and I started from our rightful position at the back of the field and followed the crowd up the lanes until we were turned loose across the fields and low foothills. The going was very definitely 'soft'. After a number of relatively gentle rises and falls we entered the valley floor leading to HCNick and proceeded up a steady incline criss-crossed with streams and bogs before hitting the boulder field (the going was now 'hard') and a savage increase in slope hidden in the cloud layer. Dougie left me behind at this point (in the nicest possible way) and went away out of sight into the mist above. By this time I was concentrating on placing all four limbs on secure hand/footholds and was quite glad I couldn't see what lay ahead or behind.

The last few metres to the top lay alongside a small waterfall that, due to the funnelling effect of the valley, was being blown as a heavy spray in the reverse direction by a gale-force wind. A cold shower was the last thing I needed at this point as we turned into the wind and began the long descent along the route of the Pennine Way. A headlong charge downhill inside such a cloud would be an ethereal experience if it wasn't for the battering of your feet on sodden, broken ground littered with stones of all sizes; - but this bit I enjoy because I seem to be able to overtake a few others under these conditions, Dougie included. We were diverted off the Pennine Way about a mile from the finish, and after a brief climb over another rise, ran down to the line on the village green and a welcome cup of home-made soup with enough pepper in it to restore the circulation to all extremities.

For those who know it, this race has a similar feeling to the Bowderdale race, albeit at a much colder time of year. I'll ear-mark High Cup Nick for next year (Harrier league permitting) in the hope of some clear weather and sight of the elusive views.

Dougie's taken some great photos along the way - well worth a look. Follow the link, below ... Ed.

Results

Pos Name Club Cat Pos Time
1 Darren Kay Horwich M 1:01:47
26 Will Horsley NFR M 1:13:27
110 Nigel Heppell MV50 1:35:58
113 Dougie Nisbet MV40 1:36:52

141 finishers.

Cramlington XC, Harrier League, 28th February

Mudman Despairs!

Susan and Debs battle it out.

Mudman has emerged from the mire to express his dismay at Striders Men for not being able to field six of their number to uphold the Club's honour at today's Harrier League fixture. This is the first time this has occurred for four years and is likely to mean that the club will suffer the ignomony of relegation to the third division.

Running is usually a solitary sport, one of personal rather than team performance - except at the Harrier League, where we are able to bond and achieve things as a team as well as individual runners in Striders' vests. So today was very disappointing - particularly for the 5 Striders men who did run and the 6 Striders women who were there to support them and later run brilliantly in their own race. Even my 'cousin' Clarty Man from Durham Harriers expressed his disappointment at Striders' poor show.

Lets see if we can't salvage some honour for the club in the remaining fixtures!

The following stalwarts were at Cramlington today flying the flag for Striders:

WOMEN: Susan Davis, Debs Goddard, Steph Barlow, Wendy Rowell, Jane Ives & Zoe Tomlins.
MEN: Mike Bennett, Shaun Roberts, Conrad White, Geoff Davis & Alan Purvis.

See you all at Prudhoe!

MUDMAN (& MUDWOMAN)

Paul Evans adds: Have just arrived back in Durham from Cramlington, having failed utterly to find the race venue. I'm really sorry about any points docked for failing to field a full team, but had to give up when 1315 came and I was still lost. Paul

Jan Young adds: Help, I've lost a Harrier League. Have you seen one around here?

Having seen Woodhorn written in my diary ever since the Harrier League dates came out, that's where I went, unfortunately taking Nina and Calum with me and unfortunately not to the correct field. That will teach me to check Striders' web site before departure.

Will I ever be forgiven? I who am always trying to persuade others to run the cross country and now the men will get clobbered with penalty points for failing to field a team . No one will ever ask me for a lift. Cal will put me in a home as he's convinced I've lost my marbles as well as a race venue. Help, I'm in need of counselling...........

We did rescue something from the day, with a 5mile run on Blyth Beach. We promise to be at the last league run at South Shields, at least I can find my way there!

Yours, Embarrassed AKA Jan Y.

Results

Men

Pos Name Club Cat Pack Time
1 ARCHER, Jon Low Fell M 36:40
118 BENNETT, Michael V S 42:26
175 ROBERTS, Shaun V S 44:28
198 WHITE, Conrad V S 45:22
202 DAVIS, Geoff V S 45:30
300 PURVIS, Alan V S 1:05:04

302 finishers. Elvet Striders: no team.

Women

Pos Name Club Cat Pack Time
1 JAMES, Delyth Morpeth Harriers F 28:07
38 DAVIS, Susan V S 32:26
44 GODDARD, Debs V S 32:56
62 BARLOW, Steph S 34:20
71 ROWELL, Wendy V S 35:49
75 TOMLINS, Zoe S 36:33

93 finishers. Elvet Striders: 11th Women's Team.

Belvoir Challenge, Grantham, 28th February

Dave Robson

I went down to the Grantham the previous night and had problems finding the Travelodge which meant that I did about 30min more driving than I need have done. Not a great start !

Got to the start very early, but at least this meant that I got a parking space at the village hall which was the finishing point - I would be very pleased at the end that I didn't have to walk very far.

Had two cups of tea whilst I was waiting and if I wasn't a vegetarian I would have been very tempted by the bacon or sausage butty. This is the 19th running of this event and the whole thing worked like a well oiled machine, it appeared as if the whole village was out helping. Both events were full - the 15m and the 26m. There looked to be slightly more walkers than runners. Faffed around deciding what to wear. Started in shorts, changed my mind and got into tights and stuck with that. Put a couple of packets of yoghurt coated raising in my back pocket and just one gel. I was a bit nervous about having just one gel for such a distance, but I thought I would just rely on the food and drink at the checkpoints - five of them.

It started at the school up the road and then went through the narrow village streets. This was a bit messy as several walkers started at the front which caused a bit of a holdup, but at least my first half mile wasn't too fast. Got out of the village onto a firm trail and the courses forked - the 15m route went right and the 26m route went left and suddenly I had loads of space and nothing but runners ahead of me. The trail got muddier and then we were into a muddy field and into the next village - all the villages we went through (must have been ten or so) were very pretty. We soon started the first climb and I decided to walk them all. Into some lovely woods and after 5m we came to the first checkpoint. It was just amazing ! Load and loads of cake, pizza, loads of alternative drinks including tea. I decided to eat every other checkpoint and drink at each one, so I didn't linger too long, although it was tempting.

And so it went on, we went past Belvoir Castle, very impressive, through muddy fields, muddy tracks, some road sections. Great countryside. All the helpers at the checkpoints were very friendly and helpful. When I got to the last but one at 18.5m I was starting to feel very tired and there was part of me wished that was the end ! I had already had the gel earlier and I think I may have needed more energy. The yoghurt covered raisins I had kept in their boxes in my back pocket, but I won't do that again, the boxes had disintegrated and were a soggy mess. So the cake at this checkpoint was very welcome and I picked up a bit after this.

Before the last checkpoint, I had just crossed an over the ankle deep muddy section and was just leaving the field when I heard somebody shouting behind me. A small group of cows had wandered on to the path behind me and the woman behind was asking me to move them as she was terrified of cows, so I ran back and shooed them away. Plodded on to the finish and I was pleased to get there. 4hr 36min. At the finish was soup, load of rolls, various puddings and custard, tea, coffee etc, just loads to eat and all included in the entry fee. I had taken printed maps with me, but only once did I need them as the course was superbly marked with tape and signs - another indication of how well organised this event was.

If you fancy a long mainly off road run, I would strongly recommend this one.

Results

Pos Name Club Cat Pos Time
1 Mark White Leicester Tri Club M 3:13:24
64 Dave Robson M 4:37:10

177 finishers.

Cautley Spout Fell Race, Sedbergh, 22nd February

Geoff Watson

Geoff gets wet feet.

The Kendal Winter league is a series of short fell races of about 3 miles which takes place from January to April each year. The events are friendly and fun but always a challenge with most being a category A fell race. Last weekends event at Cautley Spout was just that and what a magnificent venue. The tiny hamlet of Cautley is situated below Cautley crag and spout at the southern edge of the Howgill fells.

The setting provides a magnificent view up the valley to the waterfall and crag which was one of Wainwright's favourite places to walk. Indeed he would often stop for ham and eggs at the Cross Keys Inn where the race begins.

The route for all these races are well flagged as some keen indvidual marks the whole route,so there is no way of getting lost. There's no gun or whistle at the start, just a loud "GO" from the starter and you're off. A short burst along the valley and across Cautley beck and you are straignt into the climb of approximately 500 metres straight up. A few try to keep running, but it isn't long before everyone is reduced to a walk or scramble with the gradient. The climb brings you on to the summit of "Great Dummacks". If you have time to take in the view there are great views of the lakeland fells! A short circuit on the top brings the descent straight back down to the beck with the route back to the start as on the way out.

Results

Pos Name Club Cat Pos Time
1 Alastair Dunn Helm Hill M 29.35
26 Geoff Watson M 39.20

62 finishers.

Wrekenton XC, Harrier League, 14th February

Shaun Roberts

We had the lot at this one - snow, ice, slush, mud and worst of the lot, ice-covered puddles of freezing water. We were warned about the slippiness of the course at the start, and so didn't expect any fast times. Nonetheless, Mike had a good run, and was first Strider home. I kept up a steady pace all the way round, but Keith went past on the third lap, saying "tuck in", or similar - so I did, got a second wind, and went past again to finish a couple of seconds ahead at the line. Dave and Phil Owen also had a bit of a battle at the finish - Phil kept just ahead into the funnel. Gary was sixth counter finishing strongly, and Alan brought up the rear, doing well to keep under the hour on a very demanding course indeed. We were short of numbers for various reasons, so it was good to see Phil Todd and Andy Glass also having a go here, though both had to pull out early.

Only three ladies, just enough for a team, did this one - "small but beautiful", some wit said. Debs was just ahead of Nina at half-way, but pulled out a bigger lead by the finish. Nina finished strongly, as usual, and Jan had a very good run, looking very relaxed all the way round.

Geoff Watson provided a strong candidate for "Cake of the Season", adding lemon to a winning cheesecake formula - excellent! Also worth a mention was Mike's banana cake with chocolate bits in it - I made sure none of that was left by the end.

Results

Men

Pos Name Club Cat Pack Time
1 HURST, Phil Elswick Harriers M 34:02
122 BENNETT, Michael V S 40:32
188 ROBERTS, Shaun V S 43:06
190 WESSON, Keith V S 43:08
270 OWEN, Phil V S 48:58
271 ROBSON, Dave V S 48:59
277 DAVIES, Gary S 49:42
297 PURVIS, Alan V S 59:04

298 finishers. Elvet Striders: 9th Men's Team, Division Two.

Women

Pos Name Club Cat Pack Time
1 WATERHOUSE, Emma Chester-le-Street S 24:21
45 GODDARD, Debs V S 31:34
52 MASON, Nina S 32:14
61 YOUNG, Jan V S 33:01

80 finishers. Elvet Striders: 13th Women's Team.

Carnethy '5', 14th February

Colin Blackburn

Dougie West Kipping nicely - but starting to regret shaving his legs.

The Carnethy '5' is one of my favourite hill races but I've not had a chance to run it since 2004. Working regularly in Scotland gives me a few more chances now to take in Scottish hill races. So, along with 499 other people I visited the Carnethy site in January and was lucky enough to get an entry in a race that now fills up within a day or so.

There'd been a fair bit of snow before I went up o Scotland and on the Thursday before the race another several inches was dumped on south eastern Scotland. The photos from the Carnethy recce showed the Pentlands covered in deep snow with the recce'ers using cross country skis to get about. Despite slightly rising temperatures before the weekend the hills were always going to snowy and the race was always going to be different. So, it was no surprised to be warned of slower than normal times and to arrive at the start to see lots of snow.

As in the past the start of the race was filled with lots of ceremony, involving broadswords, kilts and bagpipes. The entire pack of runners was asked to sing Flower of Scotland. The race was also being filmed for a BBC Scotland outdoors programme. I, along with many other runners, was interviewed by one of the crew. He seemed interested to discover a more spiritual reason for running on the hills than simply avoiding the roads. I hope my inane rambling find the cutting room floor rather than the TV screens of Scotland.

After the starting pistol was fired by a very dapper looking chap in a red blazer 500+ runners charged across the bog towards the stile, amongst them Geoff and Susan Davis, Graham Daglish and Dougie Nisbet. The first climb up Scald Law was very hard for me, reduced—along with most others—to walking my calves felt very tight. Having to stretch through the snow to use the foot falls of the couple of hundred people ahead of me didn't help. Getting on to the summit of Scald Law and being able to run a little was a great relief. The first descent proved that the snow was a mixed blessing. Finding some nice deep snow to descend through was good, easy on the legs and any falls would be soft; having to use the beaten down snow of everyone else was a little more dodgy.

With the first four summits out of the way the descent down to The Howe from West Kip was fantastic. Lots of soft snow and only a few dodgy bits. And then the final steep grassy slope, with most people sliding down on their backsides I decided to join them. The snow had created a fantastic sledging slope making it the fastest descent of the race accompanied by lots of screaming (not me!).

The final climb up Carnethy was as hard as ever with the snow adding an extra twist. The heathery descent was for me a little easier than usual with a path having turned to a soft muddy slush by the 300 people ahead of me. At some point here Graham shot past me, descending like a demon. We'd been playing tag since coming off West Kip but now he was finally building up a lead that I'd have little chance to take back. In the final run in over the bog I manage to pick up a few places but couldn't quite catch Graham who'd finished a few seconds ahead of me.

Back at the school we grabbed hot showers and hot school lunch. Two top tips for this phase of the race. 1. Remember to take your trousers into the changing room. Having to go back to he car trouserless is no fun in February. 2. Get your biscuits for tea as you get your meal. If you get them later there are only rich teas left!

Results

Pos Name Club Cat Pos Time
1 Rob Jebb Bingley Harriers M 53:02
45 Fiona Maxwell Mourne Runners F40 1:03:43
222 Geoff Davis NFR M50 1:15:13
316 Graham Daglish M50 1:22:32
318 Colin Blackburn NFR M40 1:22:46
341 Susan Davis NFR F40 40 1:24:30
401 Dougie Nisbet M40 1:30:43

499 finishers.

Muddy Boots 10K, Ripon, 8th February

Jean Gillespie

On a cold, frosty but beautifully clear day with lots of sunshine Maggie and I turned out to take part in this fabulous multi terrain race. The route delivered exactly what its name suggests, plenty of mud. There were also icy paths and frozen tracks to negotiate which made it difficult underfoot, lots of snow to run through and breathtaking scenery (or was that the effort on the hills?) The race was well organised, the marshals cheered and supported. The toilet facilities (we can only speak for the ladies) were clean and well stocked with loo rolls and hot water ran from the taps... Oh joy There were hot drinks and home- made cakes available in the school hall afterwards. The hospitality was first class.

All in all a terrific day. In fact we enjoyed the course so much we went round most of it again!

We then ventured into the market place where we discovered a super cafe serving home made cakes and scones and a great cup of tea.

A definite for next year.

Results

Pos Name Club Cat Pos Time
1 Paul Stevenson Pudsey & Bramley M 38.32
2 Sarah Dunstall Kendal AC F 38.47
154 Jean Gillespie F 56.13
270 Maggie Thompson F 68.17

304 finishers.

Wadsworth Trog, Hebden Bridge, 7th February

Paul Evans

Paul trogging in the snow.

In the week leading up to the Trog, a 20m/4000' fell race organised by Calder Valley FR, the club's website warned that the race may be called off due to heavy snow. I'll admit that by the day before the race I was seriously hoping for a major snow-dump on the south Pennines, as I had no desire to spend the Saturday wading through snow. Sadly, rather cheerily, the website was updated on Friday evening with the meassage that the race was on, accompanied by a cheery warning that 'due to weather conditions, legs will tire more easily than usual and times will be longer'.

As it happens, the day itself turned out to have no snow, clear skies and perfect visibility, though Hebden Bridge was still under a white coating and the moors significantly more. The race follows the classic fell race format of a short road section, to separate runners (though with a stream crossing thrown in to get feet wet nice and early), a sharp climb onto the moors, lots of undulation for many miles, with a couple of steep climbs and descents thrown in (one descent had basically turned into a luge, with all runners descending on bottoms), then a steep descent to the finish. Unless you'd looked at the map beforehand, in which case you'd realise that the finish was actually up a remarkably steep, leg-busting bank, followed by a lap of a cricket pitch. However, I didn't know all this at the time, having arrived just in time for the start, so began the race in remarkably good spirits and really enjoyed the first few miles despite the snow and tussock combination making footing a constant battle, with occasional plunges through the ice crust into knee-deep freezing water. Indeed, I'd climbed up to about 20th before things started to go wrong at around 12 miles, when a search for a checkpoint on a frozen hillside, wading through thigh-high snow, and the sleep deprivation of the night before, courtesy of a 4-month-old baby with a cold, caught up and I realised that I was running on empty. The next 4 miles, back to a manned checkpoint on a road, were not fun at all and I seriously considered retiring at the checkpoint, but managed a slow shuffle to tarmac, where several others did just that. From there, it was another painful couple of miles of overtaking and being overtaken, all at snail's pace, before the welcome descent to Old Town and below, with cramp hitting every 800m or so, and runners in even more pitiable state than myself hobbling over tiny stiles incredibly slowly. Then came the finish, up a grassy bank, narrowly avoid being mown down by sledging children, round the cricket pitch and into a warm shower with hot tea on tap. reassuringly, the winner, Rob Jebb, finished well over 35 minutes off the course record, testifying to the nastiness of the conditions. Strangely it all seemed worth it by the time I was in warm, dry clothes and I may have another crack next year, but the last 7-8 miles were some of the hardest I've yet done.

Results

Pos Name Club Cat Pos Time
1 Rob Jebb Bingley Harriers M 3:13:39
41 Paul Evans M 4:02:51

113 finishers.