Sunday 6 May 2018
I write this report nearly 10 days after the race and my quads have just about recovered from the beasting they took on the descent. I know many others with a similar story. Why was this one so bad, even worse than the Ben, which is twice as far and steeper? No idea, perhaps the combination of speed, length and gradient, but it hurt!
This was the second English Champs counter of the season and a one-off AS race created by Keswick starting from by a small quarry near Threkeld. I was the only NLFR entered and bagged a lift with Wharfedale’s Nick Charlesworth and Dave McGuire.
We arrived at race HQ at Threkeld Cricket Club in the predicted glorious sunshine at just after midday with temperatures already in the mid-20s. The women’s race had already started. A few lazy saunters around the cricket pitch was about all I could muster before making my way to the start/finish area to see some of the women come in.
Already sitting in the grass was former black n’ blue, Katie Kaars Sijpstein, looking remarkably fresh in her new Keswick vest after finishing in 16th place with a fast time of 48 minutes. In response to my request for route tips, she helpfully advised that I go up to the top and come back down again. Cheers Katie…but well done for coming 24th in a British vest in the World Trail Champs just a week later in Spain. Better quads than mine, but I don’t think anyone would argue against that..
Katie’s sage route advice proved accurate and for two and bit miles I hauled myself up to the top of Clough Head, with a couple of unwelcome false summits on the way. The field was, as you would expect with a champs race, stellar, with most of the usual suspects. I focussed on my usual mid-pack battles and fairly well held my own on the ascent. But then we reached the top.
The descent was grassy, steep and runnable. For two and half miles it was all disengaged brains and eyeballs out madness as runners tried every possible line to gain some advantage. My descending skill are moderate at best and I lost at least 30 places from the top. I don’t know how some of them do it.
Image ©Stormin’ Norman (as well as the cover image)
Hitting the road at the bottom, my legs had had enough. It was all I could do to jog to the finish and keep Harrogate’s rapidly approaching Ben Grant from besting me. The finish line was next to a cool river and the next 30 minutes were spent cooling off in there and avoiding Katie asking me for my time (2 minutes slower than her).
Despite the quads, fell running doesn’t get much better than days like this. Up and down the nearest hill in glorious sunshine, cooling off in a river afterwards and some post-race banter sitting outside with a pie and a pint.
The women’s race was won by Hannah Horsburgh and the men’s by Mark Lamb, both of Keswick. I didn’t witness it, but local knowledge apparently gave them the best lines on the descent.
The next champs race is Buttermere Horseshoe. At 23 miles and over 9000’ ascent I am praying for cooler conditions.