Race Reports, September 2011
Viking Chase, North Yorks Moors, 24th September
8m / 1800'
Paul Evans ...
Durham, 0900: cloudless, dry light breeze; perfect race conditions. Carlton, 1015: clag and drizzle. Welcome to the autumn season for the four Striders (+ Dougie in a DFR vest) who'd decided to run this fund-raiser for the Cleveland MRT and first counter in Esk Valley's Fell Club's winter series.
Thoughts? Good course. In dry weather (legs and bottom rather bruised at the present). Good Strider turn-out, with more of us than most clubs other than Esk Valley. Good cause, the entry cash going to the mountain rescue. Oh, and respect to the efforts of Dave Parry of Esk Valley, who organises the winter series on the North Yorks Moors and who never misses a chance for promotion of the sport.
Sample exchange as he was taking entry forms, ten minutes before the scheduled start:
Runner: (hands over entry form) Here you go.
DP: Thanks. Oh, it says unattached...
Runner: (puzzled) That's right.
DP: Have you thought about joing a fell club? There's a lovely one that's free to join. Here, let me get you a joining form...
Next kit for the Striders after hoodies and vests - business cards?
... and Jan Young
Big turnout of 140 runners in the first race in Cleveland Hills Winter series. Bright dry Durham morning turned to thick mist on the four sharp climbs, on Carlton Moor, Cringle Moor, Hasty Bank; greasy slabs of Cleveland Way making for tricky descents. Lower path on return from Clay Bank made for faster efforts to finish near Lord Stones cafe. This race is a fundraiser for Cleveland Search and Rescue, whose members shouted encouragement along the route. The Queen Mother shared her eldest female chocolate prize with the loudest supporters, fellow Striders. Queen of the Mountains has threatened to run this winter's series ... now I wonder if I can take advantage of local knowledge and race experience and beat her? Doubt it!
Next race: Saltergate Gallows on 16/10/11, see Esk Valley Fell Club website for details.
|1||Nicholas Barker||Pennine FR||M||1||60.45|
Great Barrow Challenge, Bury St Edmunds, 21–24th September
The Great Barrow Challenge is a four day event and there is a choice of disciplines: walking, running or cycling. Each discipline has a choice of distances, although most people seem to be doing the maximum distance. You can change disciplines within the Challenge so there are some people who are running on Day 1, cycling Day 2, running Day 3 and cycling on Day 4. However, most people are sticking to one discipline. I did three marathons in three days in February so I thought I might push it a little and go for four marathons in four days.
I arrived at Race HQ before 7.00 and in time to see some friends off on their 125mile bike ride. It was a small field although some riders set off later, the start times for all events are any time within a two hour window.
I faffed around and went to the run briefing at 7.45. We were warned about the sand at the top of the course and the tank tracks for about 6m from mile 16m. The tank tracks were said to be ankle twisting territory, so I thought I might walk most of that section. We set off soon after 8.00 and I took it very easy. We crossed a fairly busy railway line going over the rails and headed north. It was cloudy with no wind, so perfect running weather. It was almost perfectly flat, just a few very slight rolling hills and descents. There were a couple of slightly bigger hills in the last two miles, but my strategy was just to walk anything that looked like it was going upwards. Preservation is the key.
The course was very well marked. I hardly looked at the written instructions and I didn't look at the supplied map at all. I had downloaded the route to my Garmin and I used that the most. We went through a field of pigs. I did get slightly anxious after my recent experience, when I was chased across a field by some pigs (the fastest 200metres I have done for quite a while !) but after a few seconds I realised these pigs were contained by a low electric fence.
The route up to the top of the course was like running on a heath, not too hard. The sand at the top of the course was fine and not bad at all. At 16m I expected to find it much harder, but the tank tracks weren't too bad at all. Just a bit up and down and you could often run on the grass alongside. The last 4.5m were all on road and I enjoyed these much less. I came home in 5hr 4min. The only damage seems to be some chaffage from my rucksack, I was aware that my shirt was riding up early on, but I was unaware it was causing any damage. Bum bag tomorrow I think.
Last night my legs very stiff and sore after Day 1, but I woke on Day 2 feeling not too bad. Today's route was to the east towards Bury St Edmunds and it had much more twists and turns than Day 1. The organisers had gone to town with flags and markers to make sure we didn't go wrong.
There were more rolling hills today and the sun was out, so I was a bit slower 5hr10min, but I enjoyed the countryside much more. We ran through Ickworth Park which was the grounds of an old country house. It was a lovely place to run, if you are ever near Bury St Edmunds, its is well worth a visit. We then crossed a few fields and entered Nowton Park, more like a city park, but large parts were just left to grow wild. Then it was some road and trail sections before we got back to Ickworth Park again.
The only part of the route I didn't like was a section about 22m where we ran along a section of road which had lots of trucks. We then had the same finish as yesterday with those two hills in the last two miles....
I feel much less sore than I did last night, so I am hoping that Day 3 to the south goes well.
After the first day I felt sore and stiff and I wondered if I would recover in time for Day 2. I did recover and Day 2 went reasonably well. After Day 2, I felt very good indeed and I thought that Day 3 would not be too hard.
It was hard. There was much more road than the previous two days, even more than I had expected, as a change to the route meant even less offroad. The route was mainly on quiet country roads, which rolled a bit, but nothing too serious. There were only one of two straight sections, which was a relief. As the day went on, it got hotter. Before we got back into Barrow we had a three mile offroad section. I liked that and moved much better. We also ran through a deer farm which was something I had not seen before.
I finished in 5hr15 so 5 minutes slower than Day 2, but I wasn't too concerned, I was just happy to have finished !
On Day 3 at about 19m, my hip niggle came back, but once off road it seemed to disappear, but I was slightly anxious that it might make Day 4 very hard.
Day 4 initially appeared to have lots of road, but as it turned out not quite as much as I had expected . We started on quiet roads which undulated quite a bit. My general approach on all four days has been to walk anything going upwards and the runners surrounding me were doing the same. On the map it looked like there were two long straights which I was not looking forward to. The first was into Newmarket where we were told to give way to race horses and the second as we came out of the centre of Newmarket. We were also told that that bit rose gently upwards for almost 5 miles. My heart sank a little at this...
So once we had completed the undulating section, we got to the first straight, which wasn't too bad, but it did start to climb. Easily runnable but a bit draining and I found it a bit tough. However, it then veered off into woods close to the road and that was far more fun. Got through halfway and just before I got there I was overtaken by three faster runners who had started later. They slowed down for a chat, before heading onwards. There was an excellent atmosphere amongst everybody, the walkers were friendly as we overtook them (they usually started an hour ahead of us). I got through Newmarket and then started the long drag out and luckily the road wasn't straight, which I found easier. I ran most of it but also walked sections. Finally made it to the the third and final checkpoint before the next bit of off road. We were back in undulating country here, but it was good to be running through woods again.
Back to the road we had come out on and up the last two hills. I checked my watch and realised I had a good chance of my first sub-5 if I kept going. I got home in 4hr 56 which I was very happy with.
Would I do more than 4 in 4 days ? I don't think so. On the fourth day of the Quadzilla in February (which I couldn't do because of my Dad's birthday), I was buzzing and ready to run a fourth marathon. On Day 5 here, I certainly wasn't buzzing to get out there and do another marathon.
It is a good feeling to have done 4 in 4 and though I have one or two sore bits, I seem to have come through it in much better shape than I have been when I have completed some single marathons.
Great North Run, 18th September
Wow what a great day today has been! I have to say, it's a totally different experience starting at the front and I feel very lucky to have been given the opportunity.
George, Jane and I got to use the queue-free celebrity toilets (which smell of perfume instead of urine) just past the start line. George had a natter with Nell McAndrew and Sophie Rayworth whilst I stared at half the cast of Eastenders, Holby City and Joe McEldry - pinching myself. We then line up 3 rows behind the start line! When the gun goes off we literally go right over the mat in seconds. We all shoot off at a silly pace without the usual sea of runners to weave through. Jane starts to overtake George and I early on, however we're both still surprised to reach the 1st mile marker in 7mins 55secs. By the 2nd mile marker, and the beginning of the first incline, George has backed off the pace and I find myself running solo. I'm aware I'm running faster than I should be, but I figure I'm going to walk at some point on the John Reid Road so I may as well make the most of it while I can. Before I know it I'm passing the 10k marker in 50 minutes (which would be a PB but apparently I can't claim that?!). It's then that I notice the 1hr 45 pacer guy running alongside me and I decide to hang on to him as much as I can.
At 7 miles I've caught up with Jane and I'm worried as I never catch up with Jane! Turns out she's ok and its just me that's running faster than 'normal'. She tells me to press on and I have to say, I'm feeling great. At 8 miles something starts to go wrong, I have a stitch coming and going, I'm getting goosebumps as its baking hot and I'm feeling pretty ropey. My Garmin has given up - it's now displaying a compass instead of the time/pace. A kind lady gives me some jelly babies, it starts raining and I perk up a bit determined not to undo my hard work so far.
I reach the short sharp downhill section clueless as to what pace I'm doing but I'm all ready to sprint when disaster strikes. My stitch is now unbearable and at the 800meters-to-go point I have to stop to walk. I'm embarrassed and I'm disappointed as I'm so close to the finish and I cant run just that little distance! I'm doubled over trying to run and complete strangers are dragging me along telling me not to give in but its agony! I finally managed to straighten myself up to go through the finish line when I notice the clock says 1hr 53mins 37secs. The last time I ran the GNR I did 2hr 16mins so I'm pretty pleased with that time, although I cant help thinking how close I came to a sub 1.50 Half!
I had a great day and I think its really helped restore whatever competitive streak I once had. I have to also point out what a great job those marshals/supporters did. Speaking from experience, the rain is great for running but its pretty miserable for those guys standing about for hours in it.
George Nicholson adds:
Well done to everybody who took part in this year's Great North Run.
A fabulous turnout by Striders.
Big thanks to the Marshalls, and to Jan and Tony Young for the 'cheerpoint' at White Mare Pool.
Loads of PB's, some great running in ideal conditions . Keri's time of 1 hr 27 & 19th Female was superb.
Extra special thanks from me to all those who ran as TEAM ACORNS - you made this my best and most memorable GNR to date.
|14422||Barrie John Evans||2:03:00|
Simonside Fell Race, Thropton Show, 17th September
6.75M 1200' Cat BM
Almost thwarted by the midday A1 traffic I made it to Thropton with just enough time to grab number 70, pin it to my vest, greet the 11 fellow Striders and partially listen to the route description while tying my shoelaces. Five minutes later I was wading through the fast-flowing Coquet, wondering whether this was a sensible warm-up to the GNR.
Fortunately, the sun was shining and I soon got into a steady pace, but not before the guy in front of me was totally taken out by a charging sheep! Yes, really, did anyone else see this? Or did I dream it!? It was a close shear (;-) but would have been a great excuse for the GNR. After the leaping sheep in the field incident it was uphill for the next 2 miles through woodland, fields, heather and mud before the summit of Simonside came into sight. Some runners took the more direct heathery route, others the longer but possibly quicker route along a rough path then the footpath to the summit. By this time the field had scattered and as we descended it was a case of sticking close to the runner in front who, I hoped, knew the way down. Weaving around trees and avoiding deep mud and ankle-twisting terrain, a pack of five of us emerged from the woodland for the quick descent through the fields, down the lane and back across the river, which seemed even stronger. Having crossed this final obstacle we were down to 2 and the competitive spirit kicked in as we approached the showfield for a final sprint. It was then great to see the procession of Striders come home wet, smiling and, in one case, rubbing their head (Alister!) after an encounter with a rock rather than a sheep. Fantastic effort all round!
... fast forward 21 hours and my calves were being pummelled by 2 Teeside physio students in the BUPA GNR massage tent. This running malarkey is definitely worth the pain and effort!
Round Norfolk Relay, King's Lynn, 17th September
The Round Norfolk Relay is an amazing event. 195 miles over 17 unequal length stages with 60 teams. A runner cannot run more than one stage. Teams estimate their time and are set off at half hour intervals from 5.30 am on Saturday so that all teams should finish between 9 am and 10 am on Sunday. At night runners must be followed by cars with orange lights on top and during the day runners must be accompanied by bikes with riders wearing high visibility vests when on roads. Runners and cyclists must be transported by the teams, so there are lots of vehicles trying to park close to checkpoints. Checkpoints are often close to village halls and small parking areas, so it can be a bit chaotic.
This is the third time I have taken part in this event. The Fetcheveryone Too team has had varying members, but contains a hardcore who return every year. In 2010 no Fetch teams were entered, but Tess, one of the team, worked out a way of getting the team Too back in. Darren, the team manager, did his usual amazing job working out who should be where, when and how they were to get there and back. We seemed to be short of cars this year, so those who had cars were doing quite a bit of driving. For the first time I did cycle support for a stage and my car was the support car for two stages.
Friday evening was the traditional pizza, beer and painting nails, this year’s colours were red and yellow. I had chickened out of camping this year as the forecast was wet, so I went back to my B and B for some sleep. I was up at 5.30 on Saturday morning to see Katie, our first runner, start Stage 1.
My next job was as taxi driver taking people to the end of Stage 3, Wells-on-Sea. I managed to get a little lost, but made it in plenty of time. I returned with other people back to the base at King’s Lynn.
I had asked for a short stage and I ended up with stage 8, Lessingham to Horsey, just over 7m. It was almost perfectly flat. I estimated my pace at 8min 50sec. The runner before me lost a couple of minutes taking a wrong turn, so with that and the pressure of wanting to do well for the team, I set off and found I was doing 8min 30sec. There was a time, a couple of years ago, when this would have been a pretty easy pace for me, but the long runs I have been doing have affected my pace and it was fairly hard. I didn’t see any runners ahead, but I was caught by a couple of runners close to the changeover at the beautiful Horsey Mill.
I then had time to recover and get ready for bike support. My bike support, Paul, had carried on to the following stage and we caught him and the runner, Steff, up and we swapped. The bike was going all the way round and I heard that the gears were tricky, so I kept it in the same gear. It was also a little small for me…
As soon as I got out of the car I felt a little cold, but once I warmed up it was fine except when it started to rain heavily, I then felt a little cold. Luckily that didn’t last long. At about halfway through the stage, the evening darkened and the car followed us close behind. This was great as Steff and I weren’t too sure of the way a couple of times. It was usually well signposted, but we just had a crisis of confidence. We came into Great Yarmouth and Steff had done a great time. We changed support car and I was driven back to King’s Lynn. Back to bed for about five hours, up at 4am, back to King’s Lynn and taxing four people to the start of Stage 15. There my car was to be the new support car and we had planned a way of doing this without delaying the runner (it was still dark) and it worked like clockwork. During this stage, it became officially light and we no longer needed to follow the runner, we could leave Stu in the safe hand of Mel as bike support and leapfrog them. Hayley took over as the runner on Stage 16 and we went to the end of Stage 16 which was as usual very busy as the teams got closer as the seeding unwinded. We met up with Heidi who was running for her club but had no way of getting back to her car at the start of Stage 16. The Fetch team would never have left anybody like that and that is the beauty of the support of the Fetch team. We gave her a lift back and then headed back to King’s Lynn for Cath’s finish. Apparently we were the second closest team to our estimated time and just missed out on that prize.
Photos were taken and I went to the longest presentation ceremony I have ever been to – an hour and twenty minutes ! I watched people take down tents. Sunday was lovely weather, quite a difference from the heavy but brief rain showers we had had on Saturday. Then a Fetch car convoy to a pub, lunch and the end of another lovely event. I set off to Norwich, got into my hotel and slept soundly for a few hours, before getting up in the early evening. I still haven’t caught up on my sleep !
Summer Handicap Final, 14th September
The Chris Hills 10 in 10
Robin Hood Marathon, Nottingham, 11th September
Marathon number 8 of the 10 took me to Nottingham and I was quite looking forward to a ‘big day out’ marathon- I am a big fan of the rural ones that are designed for the course rather than the crowd but it is good to be part of a big event too. I enjoyed seeing the terror in the eyes of the racing virgins at the start; it is something that you miss after the fear of the distance has gone. The permanent tapering and lack of miles under the (expanding) beltline mean I have not felt this unfit since I started running some years ago, so I wasn’t feeling too confident about the whole thing. It was something I didn’t think about at the start of all of this and I find myself lurching, rather than bounding, to the end.
The first half of the race was run with the halfies and the big crowd set off round the city and parks - it was not the flat course I had thought it would be but it was certainly nothing to fill the heart with dread. There was a good sized crowd out for the race and it was enjoyable running. Come the half way mark and the number of runners dropped - I’m guessing that at only one in five runners were doing the full thing so it was more a chain of runners than a throng. We went round all of the landmarks and then out into the sticks a bit. The course reminded me of the Edinburgh Marathon - we went out and back round some country estate then round a big water sports complex. 20 miles came and went and I was feeling fine - 22 miles too, I was loving it! Little did I know that for those two miles we had a gale force wind behind us on a hugely exposed boating lake, so when we turned a corner and ran up the other side of the lake the hurricane was directly in our faces. It was hard work but I managed to keep running - it was just a case of head down and ride it out, but at mile 23 it is the last thing you want.
A sub 4 hour time was on the cards but it was going to be close and my lack of fitness was beginning to show. At 25.5 miles we had gone through the wind tunnel and it was back to normality but I’d run out of gas and had to stop and walk. It is quite ridiculous really to do that so close to the end, with the 4 hour mark in sight, but my old legs simply wouldn’t move. For anyone who hasn’t hit the wall before it is a feeling that if someone had a gun to your head and said ‘run or I’ll shoot you’ you would take the bullet happily. I picked it up again after a minute or 2 but the ‘run at them screaming’ technique had got the better of me again. I forced myself over the line for my second 4.01 of the 10 races.
I enjoyed the day; maybe I will come back next year and destroy this one. As for the marathons, it’s the GNR next which is consuming my thoughts (look out for 4 Tetris blocks on the TV….) but after that number 9 is Kielder, with the end in sight!
Major Stone Half Marathon, Lockington, East Yorkshire, 11th September
Sunday found us once more in East Yorkshire for this lovely, friendly half marathon which gave me the opportunity to combine a race with the chance to visit Jacquie's parents. So while they and her brother enjoyed a lovely meal and drinks on the Saturday night, (Jacquie's birthday is today, 12th September), I was designated driver, keeping myself right for the next day.
Once again I assumed that as East Yorkshire is predominantly flat that so too would this race be. Once again I was wrong. Although no huge climbs there were long draining drags, particularly miles 10-12, just where you don't want them. Having said that I've never taken part in a friendlier race. My pre race plan was to run about 1.45 and after about a mile one of our 'pack' piped up with, "So we're the eight minute milers are we?", that set the tone for some conversation and chatting, primarily about the Great North Run. While this was great I was seriously concerned about running out of breath (if you'll pardon the pun) as it wasn't supposed to be a long slow run! What's the etiquette for such a situation, you don't want to appear rude do you? The biggest battle was the wind, especially on the second part of the course, coming back. There were plenty of drink stations and the route was along very, very quiet if open to traffic country lanes. Even calling some of them roads would be a bit of a stretch.
It was quite a small field (only just over 130 finishers) and after a little while I was surprised to see some runners coming the other way. For a while I couldn't work out if they were ahead or behind us but shortly I rounded a corner and there was a cone in the middle of the road which the marshal directed us back round. It gave me another bite at that drinks station cherry though.
Just after the half way mark I teamed up with another runner, I'd just met, Barry, of Hull Springhead Harriers, my wife's old athletics club. We pushed each other round and encouraged each other up until the last half mile where I urged him on and that I would be OK to finish. He was properly competitive and asked me how old I was so he could establish if I was going to be a challenge in his age category. I must have looked pretty rough though as he turned out to be an MV60+!
Major (George) G.H.Stone, who the race is named after was a former official of East Hull Harriers. From their website: "In the early fifties Major G. H. Stone made an unusual entrance into the Club, he attended an ACM to tender his sons apologies for absence and left as Hon. Secretary." which is certainly an unusual story...
Prize was a great tech t-shirt in the club's red with the name of the club plastered on front of the vest. I think if we ever get a Durham 10K or half off the ground we should do the same, it would be great to see everyone dressed in our purple at the end!
Moray Marathon, Elgin, 4th September
I am ashamed to say that this was my first time this far north and it was good fun to explore a new area. On the evening before the race I drove some of the marathon route and I must admit my heart sank a little. Long straights, gradual but long climbs. The weather was a bit grey which didn't help. I also realised that it has been a while since I have done a road marathon and it felt a bit of a challenge. The organisers were encouraging runners to finish in under five hours and I wondered whether I might not make that - I might just get tired of running as I had done two weeks ago at the Northumberland Coast marathon.
Race day dawned with much brighter, sunny weather. I met up with some other Fetchies, some new and some I have met before There had not been any signs out on the previous evening and the start/finish area was only sorted on the morning, so I thinking that this was a laid back event. The organisers knew exactly what they were doing (it was the 30th running of this event) and everything was ready in time and about 170 of us set off. The half marathon and the 10K used the later sections of the route so that everybody finished at the starting area of the marathon - those runners had buses to get to their starts. The mile markers counted down from 26 which I hadn't seen before.
We did a bit of a zigzag out of Elgin and then there was a steady climb out of the city. As a course I think I would say rolling, though there were some long flat sections. I enjoyed the route much more than I had the previous evening. The sun definitely helped, but it was warm. I don't think I have never seen so many water stations for a relatively small number of runners - every 2-3 miles and I was making full use of them.
I decided just to try and take this very easy. I had a plan to get to 3m in about 35 minutes and then see how it went. Well I got to the 23m sign (3.2m) in 30 minutes and that included the long drag out of Elgin, so not great pacing ! But I did try to slow down and quite a few people went by me. There was a woman about twenty yards ahead of me who was going about the pace I wanted so I just tried to keep to her pace. At 11m she stopped for a walking break so I went on and started to catch some of the people who had passed me earlier. From the splits, I did slow down after 9m, but I wasn't conscious of that at the time.
I thought I might try and speed up when I got to the 10k start (so just over 6m to go), but it didn't feel like there was much in the tank with the heat, so I plodded on, catching and overtaking other runners who were wilting in the heat. I was concerned I might just slow down again near the end and the penultimate mile was a struggle. The final mile was a breeze and I picked up on that one
4hr 37min 27sec was better than I had expected and it was good to come into the final straight in the front of the cathedral and to hear my name being called over the PA system
Middlesbrough 10K, 4th September
Kathryn SygroveThis was the second time I had run the Middlesbrough 10k, otherwise known as the Tees Pride. Two years ago I finished in about 56 mins, slower than my hubby who rarely runs these days. This year I swapped the Jelly Tea for a 10k - having already done 2 marathons and four half marathons this year, I didn't really feel the need to "build up" miles like last year to my only half-marathon (GNR) of 2010!
I was determined to try for sub 50 minutes this time, having managed this time for a 10k distance a few times in longer races, but had left this distance hanging whilst training long for marathons earlier this year. I tried unsuccessfully to sub 50 in July, but was borderline anaemic, so failed! Today, this was a flat, fast race, familiar to me, well-organised, well supported, running with Strider and Sunderland Harrier friends, so I had nothing to lose!
Roads closed early (9.30 am) for a race which starts at 10.45, so we were parked up by 9.15 and over at the "Village" supping tea (well, me, of course), chatting, getting quite warm in the sun, and wishing I had worn shorts and brought a hat! We bumped into Claire Readey and Isobel, her elder daughter, who had just finished her first 3k Fun Run - well done Isobel! Soon the warm-up came around and whilst I have poo-pooed them in the past, I took part at the front, hopelessly uncoordinated but enjoying myself going in the opposite direction to everyone else for the most part! The Zumba had me all over the place but my next-door neighbour used to be on the Panel for safety at the GNR, has had to mop up many an injured runner, and insists that I warm up and cool down properly to avoid this, so I was doing things right this time. I felt invigorated afterwards, although a bit sticky, but I certainly felt ready to run.
A wee wait and we went to the "honesty pens" as I called them. You had to stand in the time-pen which you reckoned you would do. Heaven knows how many people truthfully stood where they should have, but after jumping a few fences, I got to where I was meant to be. The start was not on the main road this time, but half-way along the road from the Village, and the finish did not entail a long road ending behind the school - it turned off just before the Running Village which seemed much better psychologically.
I had a plan which I tried to stick to- increase speed by 10 seconds every two miles starting out at 8 minute miles. I was pretty much spot on after 2 miles, happily ignoring people racing past, and thinking how strong my legs would be later when they had run out of steam - well, some of them! I struggled to stay slow enough the next 2 miles, as this "flat" course still has a few steady gentle downs and a few long steady pulls. Still, it pretty much evened out timewise, and I felt strong. Sticky hot, but strong.
A few sips at 5km helped, but irritated my steady stride. The odd bout of good music rang out at the three evenly-spaced water stations, and really was well-appreciated. I wanted to stop and do a ska-dance to a song from "Bad Manners" but resorted to a frenzied attempt at arm-waving instead. Where was I? Oh yeah, about 6-7km. I was keeping steady and overtaking quite a few people now as I was in full flow, and getting a wee bit faster. Threshold and some, I reckon! But the mugginess was starting to make me a bit fatigued, so I stayed steady and focussed on seeing the km markers go, 7, 8km, as the crowds started to gather and cheer us on on the way back.
Why put a slow pull up to 9km? How thoughtless! Head down and off I went, digging in with renewed vigour as the applause rang out from enthusiastic onlookers, and knowing the end was in sight. But my legs were nearly spent by then as I turned into the final road before the finish. I lost a bit of speed but knew my aim was well in sight. A few people overtook me in the home straight, but not many. I plunged over the line and was delighted with the time, but already feeling heady and a bit sick. Should have worn the shorts and the hat!
Grisedale Horseshoe, Glenridding, 3rd September
The chat in the queue for the carpark ticket machine was about how many hours to buy. Most people were playing safe and ticket sales were probably surprisingly high that day given the weather. The detailed forecast included phrases such as "Significant buffeting likely on higher areas", and gave the chance of cloud free summits as "less than 10%".
After kit checks and registration I wandered over to a gloomy corner of the village hall and to the reason why this is my favourite fell race. On the wall there was a list of checkpoints and their grid-references. On an unlit OS map the five check-points had been circled in blue-biro. That was it. No more clues.
Start was delayed due to an irregularity in one of the entries and the cry went out for a runner who should not be running. He was not in the start group. Or at least, not admitting it. All very mysterious. We shuffled off and I settled in at the back knowing that my form was a bit rubbish and I'd be happy to finish at the back of the field as long as it wasn't by an embarrassing margin. After a few minutes I passed two runners with big bouncy rucksacks and then up into the cloud there wasn't much to see until over an hour later where, on Swirral Edge, things started getting interesting. A runner was standing at an fork in the paths looking a bit puzzled. This happened to me last year. Faster runner waits for slower runner because faster runner doesn't know which way to go! I briefed him on the way ahead but he was content to tuck in behind me and we hit Helvellyn together.
This year I'd done masses of homework for the race. I had the route pretty much memorised with every twist marked on maps. There are several points where it's easy to go wrong, but I'd uploaded my planned route to my Garmin and the salt-trail display showing the way was making life a lot easier. On the map the long southerly run along the Helvellyn Ridge looks simple but in the dense cloud it was a different story. Those who say relying on a GPS is dangerous may be onto something as I found when, starting intently at the display, I tripped on a boulder and crash-landed in an inelegant heap. With a slightly hurty knee I got over onto the grass where the running was easier and safer. Slightly Faster Runner was still with me so I updated him on the course, and my plan for the descent to Grisedale Tarn. On a clear day, the descent from Dollywaggon Pike to Grisedale Tarn is simplicity itself. Grisedale Tarn lies below with St Sunday Crag clearly visible beyond. You can see the checkpoint, and you just aim for it. Today would be different. I told SFR the safe bet was to follow the path down to the checkpoint, but I was going to trust the Garmin and take a direct line. As we descended he decided to stick to the scary wet stony path and I took to the much friendlier grass. It was incredibly disorientating in the gloom and I was finding it difficult to trust the Garmin. I rejoined the path and crossed it, trying to keep to the straight line I had in my head. Rejoining the path once more I was now so disorientated I decided to stick to the stones. Although the GPS is a handy safety net in poor visibility I think for certain sections, such as the long stretch along Helvellyn Ridge and this corner-cutting descent to Grisedale Tarn a bearing on a hand-held compass is probably easier to follow.
I almost missed the path off to the right for the Grisedale Tarn checkpoint. It would have been easy to go wrong here and I suspect many did. Through the checkpoint and up St Sunday Crag, taking a longer, shallower line this year that I thought would suit be better. It turned out to be a poor route choice as I abruptly found my path blocked by sheets of scree and I had to turn sharp right and climb straight up to the high-level path, and onto some good easy surface up to St Sunday Crag.
Through the gloom a tent emerged flapping noisily in the wind and the poor bedraggled marshalls appeared to encourage me onwards over the penultimate checkpoint. Resisting the temptation to veer left I kept my line and started to descend. Flying on instruments once more I could see a couple of runners away to my left, the first I'd seen for 50 minutes, and it occurred to me that I might actually catch someone. How cool would that be? However my line seemed to be taking me too far east and for a few moments I thought I'd have to change direction. But no, my line took me onto a North-Westerly trod that contoured elegantly to the crag and I found myself bumping into an Achille Ratti runner who was consulting a map. I introduced myself to him with, "This year I'm finding it. I'm going to find it. I'm going to find this bloody scree if it's the last thing I do. Hello by the way.".
He'd done the race three times before and he'd never found the scree. But I had every twist of this section memorised and I was going to go for it. Plus my Garmin was telling me it was around here, and it wouldn't tell me to walk off a cliff, would it? I jogged determinedly towards the cloudy precipice and wondered if I'd step out into a generous expanse of empty space, or if this year, I would find the mythical scree. If I should die, I thought, think only this of me: That there's some corner of a foreign fell, where Dougie turned left a bit too early.
And there it was. I must confess, I whooped a little, and I'm not normally one given to whooping. The AP runner was following me and as he apologised for dislodging a boulder that whistled past my left ear, we chatted about the race while stumbling down the scree. When we hit the bracken he was still following me and I suggested his guess was as good as mine as to the best descent route. Taking the hint, he veered of to the right to cross the Blind Cove beck and avoid the bracken. Brilliant! I veered right and started following him. On the other side of the beck the descending was much easier and we followed it right down to the checkpoint.
Through the checkpoint and down to Grisedale Beck, which was looking decidedly gutsy after all the rain. The AP runner, who was a bit taller than me, had got half-way across but seemed to have suddenly stopped, lost in contemplation. I've had my share of nadger-numbing becks and I wasn't afraid of a little water so I waded confidently into the spate. About half-way across I began to appreciate the problem; it wasn't the depth (just above knee-height) it was the sheer speed and force of the water that was so impressive. We ended up having to turn sideways, feet pointing upriver, and slowly shuffle-crablike through the frisky torrent to the other side where the marshalls were holding sticks out for us to grab. Quite unnerving.
Things got a little busier as I headed for the final climb up Grisedale Brow as runners appeared who'd gone off-course and missed the Grisedale Tarn checkpoint. I was still elated at nailing the St Sunday Crag descent and was crowing about it to anyone who I could persuade to listen. Soon I found myself alone again as I struggled up to the final checkpoint. Over the stile "Watch out for the dead sheep!", then straight ahead to pick up the descent to the finish.
Three hours and forty minutes after starting it was still raining as I crossed the finish line to find Roberta waiting patiently, looking wet and bedraggled. Into the village hall for a cup of tea and a look at the results board and the large number of "Retired" stickers gave an indication of just how tough and confusing it had been out there. An outstanding race from the Achille Ratti Climbing Club where the real heroes of the day were the marshalls who were unbelievably encouraging to back-markers such as me when they'd obviously been hanging around in the wind and rain for hours.