As 2019 was the year for dubious world records and associated PB claims in athletics (no offence, Eliud 😉), I thought why not celebrate my lovely new NLFR vest by staking my own tenuous claim for a world record, OK fastest known time (FKT), for the Fellpack Triple Expresso.
My brother Steve and I already held the FKT, and whilst being the only known participants lessens the claim somewhat, our achievements were made without the use of rotating pacers or state-of-the-art Nikes (just our dad on the latter two tops and in my case, Salomons with more miles on the clock than I care to mention) so it’s worth shouting about, right? As our previous attempt was completed in a St Theresa’s AC vest (and Keswick AC who Steve runs for) I thought we’d best go claim some Cumbrian glory in NLFR’s name. It’s probably worth pointing out at this stage, the Triple Expresso doesn’t really exist as a concept outside of the Jones family: We came up with the idea over a beer and Steve christened it as a friendly nod to Fellpack’s near neighbour George Fishers and its Espresso Round. (Expresso after an express train as well as the drink.)
Fellpack is a bar/café/restaurant (https://www.fellpack.co.uk/) on Lake Road in Keswick, and has rapidly established itself as something of a Mecca for outdoor enthusiasts of all kinds. For those seeking to refuel after a day on the fells, it offers a comprehensive range of tasty snacks and meals (including lots of GF & vegan options). If rehydration is more your bag, it’s fully licensed with a good selection of lagers and ales, and if you’re looking for inspiration for your next adventure there’s knowledgeable staff, plenty of outdoorsy books kicking about and the walls are adorned with running club vests and photos of top fell runners.
Fellpack run informal challenges for their clientele to bag some of the local fells. You get on the leader board for running to either Walla Crag, Catbells or Latrigg, taking a selfie at the top, and getting back to the café for a celebratory slice of cake. For a few years now I’ve done the Walla Dash on the weekend before Christmas, and last year we thought we’d try to be the first people to run all 3 of the designated fells, starting and finishing at the Fellpack, and revisiting inbetween!
2018’s effort was 3 hours 7 minutes 32 seconds. We adopted the same strategy for Christmas 2019: we would tackle the out and back run to Catbells first, which is the biggest of the climbs and has the fastest road sections of the day leading to and from it. I think the weather was marginally worse this year, but there wasn’t a lot in it and I guess we summitted in within a minute or two of our 2018 time. You’ve got a decent run back through Portinscale to the Fellpack, but like last year I soon went from “feeling good, best conserve some energy” to the more familiar “crikey, it’s going to be long afternoon” as I went up the deceptively steep Springs Road on the way to the main climb up to Walla Crag. We were pretty much breaking even on time at the second summit (we’d done leg one 2 minutes faster than 2018, so must have been a fair bit slower to lose so much time up the relatively short climb from town to Walla) but we got back to the Fellpack for the penultimate time with a couple of minutes grace back in the bag.
After a short run across town you are then faced with the short sharp climb of Spooney Green Lane that will be familiar to anyone who has tackled Skiddaw. The lane is a swine at the best of times but even worse with 20km in the legs. It gets sharper when you pull off the main path and take the shortest but steepest ascent to Latrigg’s summit as per the Latrigg fell race. As is often the case, we saw some hikers mistakenly celebrating getting to the top at the false summit by the bench just shy of the real peak (for those seeking a photo op, for my money this is has the most rewarding ratio in terms of effort against view in the Lakes, but only if you take more windy walkers path!). Steve took rather too much enjoyment pointing out their error and sent them to the true summit in the cloud a couple of hundred metres away. I was too tired to join in the banter, but I’m sure the look on my face said something along the lines of “I know, I can’t be bothered either.”
We soon met Dad at the top. I can’t be sure, but I think his words of encouragement were along the lines of “best get cracking if you want to beat your record”. Thanks, Dad! By this point I’d forgotten our previous splits for the various peaks/return visits to Fellpack so I don’t know how long it had taken to get from Latrigg back to town the last time, but I was aware we had 19 minutes to beat our PB. On reflection I should have realised how doable it was as it’s just a couple of miles of downhill fell running, and flattish road. (By comparison Kenny Stuart’s longstanding record for the “up & down” Latrigg fell race is a mind boggling 16 minutes 30 odd seconds.) But it wasn’t until we got off Spooney Green Lane and towards the back of Keswick Pool that I was confident of a PB.
So, after just short of 25lm run and 1400m climbed, we got back to Fellpack in 3.04.52; a good two and a half minute PB, a Christmas tradition extended and, perhaps only for a short time, joint bragging rights for NFLR with Keswick AC (there’s worse clubs to share a claim to fame with). I think we tackled the peaks in the best order, but if anyone was using this for a Yorkshire 3 Peaks training run and not bothered about records I’d suggest Latrigg, Catbells then Walla. That way you get the mimic Pen-y-Ghent’s short sharp climb not too warmed up, and some fast road running an hour or two in. If anyone wants clarity on route on rules, feel free to give Steve or me a shout on Facebook.
I’d love to think we can take the record below 3 hours, but there’s nothing to be learned in terms of route really, and perhaps only marginal benefits coming off grassy Catbells and Latrigg in better weather, so I’d be looking at doubling last year’s fitness gains to be in with a chance. With any luck, hopefully someone else will rise to the challenge and take it below 3 hours first. You never know, they may just be wearing a NLFR top?