Tag: Fells (Page 1 of 2)

The Packhorse’s Blinders, or a very long-winded Tour of Pendle report.

Standing in the queue for some post race replenishment, I’d asked Bill what his next race would be. “Tour of Pendle in November, last AL of the season”.

Never heard of it.

“How is it?”

“Oh, it’s great!”, he informs me with his usual wide-eyed enthusiasm. An enthusiasm faultlessly unencumbered by the prospect of long and arduous races, I should add. He is Lancastrian after all.

16 and a bit miles, 4800 feet, in November, on the windiest hill in England, four weeks after my first race post-injury. It’ll be fine. Then I remember, I haven’t done a long category race since June. It’ll be fine-ish.

Unable to find out much about the origin of the race, I’ve concluded that the route was devised by dropping spaghetti on a map, and the most offensive strands were selected to give the grandest day out possible. That, or some devious cartographer went to work figuring out how to get an AL out of a hill that’s 2 miles wide and 1800ft tall. Either way, the result is a criss-crossing tour that seduces you with 10 easy miles, before smashing you to bits by throwing the majority of the ascent at you over four miles, and then making you sprint it home on tarmac for a mile. Saucy.

The night before, I follow my Team Sky-esque pre-race protocol: one large pizza, chicken wings and a big packet of Maltesers, followed by sorting my kit out two hours after I should have gone to bed. Dave Brailsford would be proud. I sleep terribly, rise reluctantly, throw some coffee at my face and grumble through a bowl of muesli. This is what Peak Performance™ looks like, I’m sure. Fortunately the transcendent effects of the coffee kick in and I’m happily on my way to Barley before I know it.

My morning drudgery aside, the day is off to a good start. The weather is fair – a particularly positive omen with previous years’ races being hit with every weather type imaginable – and I squeezed my Astra into a spot so tight Guinness World Records might come a-knocking (I’m tempted to attach a picture because it’s that much of a bobby dazzler).

[Ed—happy to oblige]

 

Number and t-shirt collected, map purchased from Pete Bland and there’s nowt left to do but plod up and down the road a few times to remind my legs they’re on duty today.

The giant mass of runners pile down the lane to the start, and without a moment to stagnate the heads in front start to bob up and down as the wave of commencement drifts towards us. There are a lot of people running this race! I have to admit I feel awful, the realization striking me of what lies ahead, everything a bit off kilter, my stomach carved hollow. Too late now, anyway. It’s a pretty standard schlep up Pendle Hill to start which helps draw attention away from my intestinal quandaries.

[Ed—”pretty standard if you mean full clag”?]

 

 

The trig is passed, and the dreamy 4.5 mile descent towards CP2 begins. Keeping it steady, I’m passed by Bill, a decent indicator that my pace is correct, as he knows what he’s doing, I don’t! “See you at the finish!,” I laugh and off into the distance he goes. Down to CP2 then past the reservoir and up the next climb. It’s a narrow path so you’re tightly slotted into your running order. Trying to make up places here will be a clear waste of energy (or a good excuse to slow your pace, depending on your pedigree). Sadly the climb doesn’t give a great return on its investment, the ground drops away steeply, presenting the aptly named “Geronimo” descent. Running in my comfortable trail shoes, the wet grass isn’t offering much purchase and I find myself working my legs hard to keep in control. Too hard in fact. So I decide to match my decline in altitude with a decline in dignity. Setting free my inner seven year old, I pick the grassiest line and bum-slide my way down. I’ve heard that if it’s stupid but it works, it can’t be that stupid. I’m not sure anyone’s buying it though.

 

I still feel pretty capable, if a little wobbly, as CP5 approaches. I’m on schedule, hitting the 10 mile mark under two hours. That gives me an hour and a half for the remaining 6.5, at around 15 minutes a mile. This is also the last chance to do any maths, before the arriving climbs siphon all the oxygen out of my blood, rendering me into some kind of Neanderthal and thus stripping me of my already limited numerical capabilities.

The turn from CP5 heads straight for the climb via a dip over the stream. Your cover from Pendle’s ever-present winds is whipped away and the steepness robs me of my pace. The powerful gusts try and liberate me from my race cap, as I tighten it, pulling it over my brow. The peak is acting as a pair of blinkers for this tired old packhorse. Ignore the other runners and trudge away, I think to myself. Tiny steps but keep the cadence. It feels stupid taking these teeny steps, but for the first time ever, I’m actually taking places while going uphill. It definitely helps that my stout build grounds me with a greater wind resistance than my whippet-limbed compatriots. The caffeinated energy gel swilling around my guts is threatening revolt but the call to arms seems to be rousing a second wind. Feeling pretty burst, I console myself with the reminder that there’s only two climbs left.

The descent offers little respite as the steepness demands that the legs work hard to keep me on track. I try and relax my body to stop it stealing precious energy for the approaching ascent. The penultimate climb starts and by some miracle of sports nutrition, the viscous devil I squirted down is doing wonders. But still, the plod, plod, plod begrudgingly goes on. Then a stroke of good luck: the rasping sound of tired breath and howling wind is broken by a Lancastrian accent so thick you could spread it on toast. The unmistakable tones belong to Bill, who’s only a few places ahead. Seeing a friend in a long race is worth way more for performance than any gelatinous nutrition packet. So I power on, trying to catch up. But much like those dreams where you’re stuck to the floor, limbs refusing to cooperate, I just can’t quite bridge the gap. The chase continues over the top and back down.

Another sapping descent delivers us to the foot of the final uncompromising climb. And the best really is saved until last. The trodless hillside offers no line of weakness, just a steep aspect, uneven footing and guaranteed discomfort. It’s a bloody great way to finish a race, I must reluctantly admit. My body has now diminished from Neanderthal to horse to some kind of amoebic puddle. The single file of runners disperse into a loose scattering on the hillside, each runner in their own battle against the elevation. I laugh to myself at how daft this must look, droves of knackered looking runners cresting the hill like some kind of lycra-clad zombie apocalypse.

 

Up and over, nothing left now but to empty the tank and to try and avoid premature disintegration. I’m back with Bill as we hit the tarmac. The harsh feedback from the solid ground underfoot shakes through me and lets me know the end is nigh – both the finish line and my ability to walk. Only 8 minutes of this and you’ll be done. Grit your teeth and put it down. My quads want to explode. My guts are shriveling. But my pace is good and I’ve made some good distance on Bill, I think. Round the final corner, finish in sight. Then out of bloody nowhere a Lancastrian bullet comes flying with a sprint finish to make Usain Bolt proud. My floppy legs give it my best but the man in black and white has kept his ace in the back pocket and thrown it on the table just in time.

Cheeky sod.

—Andrew Sandercock

 

Fell relays

I’ve had a pretty good year so far. I planned to train for, and then run a proper Lakes AL. From January to June I put the hours and miles in, culminating with the Ennerdale fell race at the start of June. My little training chart — compiled by a mystical computer algorithm — had a lovely upward trending squiggle. And I do love a bit of data-based reassurance. I was running well and completed my goal (albeit with a performance slightly dampened by a cold) so I promptly took a few weeks off.

My little squiggle took a downward turn, but with my desires sated, that wasn’t a concern. Training and rest must be balanced carefully if you want the scales of performance to tip in your favour, after all. But then Kentmere Horseshoe appeared on the horizon. It had been my first Lakes race the previous year and I was keen to see if I’d actually improved since then. It’s a cracking race; long and steep enough to put you to work, but not so serious as to scare you off.

A work stint in Carlisle gave me the perfect base for a bit of fitness rebuilding. I managed to make some quick hits on Scafell, Skiddaw, the Buttermere Sailbeck, and Striding Edge, to name a few, and my squiggle ascended accordingly. I was primed for Kentmere. The race brought some testing conditions, which resulted in countless route variations (or detours, depending on who you ask) but it was a fantastic day nonetheless. Placing further up the field than before, I was happy with my improvements and started to plan out the rest of the summer’s races.

I returned to my local training ground — the Otley Chevin — with great fervour, stomping up the track with great intention. Cresting the top of the climb with a newfound momentum, and pulling round the corner, my foot somehow didn’t quite land underneath me and with an horrific crunch I stumbled to the floor in a pile of curses and pain. The summer’s racing plan almost visibly evaporated before me.

A dog walker enquired if I needed assistance but I declined, either from denial or embarrassment, I’m still not sure which. I hobbled back down the track to the car. Surely it can’t be so bad if I can walk on it?
Once again the squiggle tumbles, this time for two months. Eight weeks of holidays, stag dos and weddings later, I’ve ridden that downward squiggle like a party rollercoaster. Kilograms gained, fitness lost. I might as well take up tiddlywinks.

And then up pops a little message from Dom.
“Can you run in the Fell Relays?”

Which brings me to the bit I actually meant to write about: The British Fell Relay Championships. They are organised by Ambleside AC and held in Grasmere, and NLFR fielded four teams, no mean feat for a small club. Shrouded in darkness, we piled onto the bus on a dreary Saturday morning. I was to be running the first leg, a hearty five mile romp with 2400ft of climb. I avoided looking at the route in advance, choosing to remain in blissful ignorance; I knew it was going to hurt and that was sufficient. Either good fortune or foresight had me on a fully flagged route, something I was definitely happy about upon our arrival at a very claggy Grasmere.

The marquee was absolutely buzzing with teams from all around the country getting down to their pre-race rituals. Reassuringly, everyone seemed to be juggling dibbers, numbers and maps, with expressions of less than total comprehension. This is the cottage sport of fell running not the Olympics, after all.

Soon enough the time rolls round to switch into race gear. I do the classic awkward shuffle into my shorts and vest, trying to use my hoody to shield my sliver of dignity. I head for a quick trot up the hill to get some blood back into my legs. They feel as rubbish as you’d expect after a few hours on a coach. It was a bit of a shock. Even walking the hill felt pretty hard going, and it’s only about 200m from the start. Not the greatest omen, but with the swirling fog and tense atmosphere, today wasn’t a day to let superstitious thoughts get the better of me. I trundled back down to the start with 20 minutes to go, launch prep commenced final ablutions, a quick scoosh of caffeine-charged energy gel, a swill of water, a kiss to my partner, and a saunter to the pen. The sight of a familiar face – Bill from Chorley – helped break the tension. We laughed at the ridiculousness of our nerves; it’s only a run up a hill anyway. I make the slight error of not jostling my way to the front, but before I had time to adjust position, we were off!

 

Races always set off fast, and so should you [really? —ed]. I don’t. Well, not fast enough anyway. The first steep climb was as unpleasant as expected but it turned into a speedy bit of track soon enough and the pace shot off. It felt great to be smashing along the winding path as it slowly gained in incline. Steady and fast for just over a mile, and I felt a touch regretful for not pushing harder for position at the start, now locked into the locomotion of runners snaking their way up the path, pace dictated by your allotment in line. This is what cross-country must feel like. The path steepened again, my heart was pounding and lungs pumping, but a cursory glance at my watch told me there was less than a mile to go. A mile to the top of the climb that is, the only marker that matters for a gravity-burdened plodder like myself.

Checkpoint one at Grisedale Hause passed, dibber sweatily fumbled into the reader, and steeply up to Sandal Seat we went. Now we were less than half a mile from the summit, but the angle and terrain were unquestionably fell rather than cross country now, my hands pumping down on my thighs (if I’ve got to lug these bloody arms up with me I might as well use them), sweat pouring from my face even in the cold, claggy air. The summit was crested with another clumsy thrust of my dibber into its target, and the sweet relief of a downward trajectory began.

The grass was slick in the wet, and the lack of pronounced tread on my shoes promptly makd this clear, traction being variable at best. Either way, I’m definitely a downer rather than an upper, so I threw myself into the descent with the regular reckless abandon. Arms wind-milling, I kicked my legs into long strides, as if I was trying to launch a football the full length of a pitch. I interspersed the long leaps with the occasional tap left or right, trying to keep the unwieldy vessel on its winding course. Questionable as the technique appears to be, I kept passing runners, so I continued, my body shaking and praying that my legs weren’t about to crumble. Even a minuscule miscalculation would send me Klinsmanning down the fell. That was brought clearly into focus when I passed a downed runner, head bandaged, surrounded by co-competitors who had come to his aid.

We rambled through the final checkpoint, and the surrounding runners and I all audibly groaned as we realised there was still some uphill left. Climbs — no matter how insignificant — always seem an order of magnitude worse when they’re near the end (a pertinent issue with The Tour of Pendle approaching). But with some heart-pounding stomps, we were up and over and on our way back along the fast track. The final steep descent, the same one that caused such concern at the start — continued to deliver, as I completely lost all grip, engaging in a full bum slide manoeuvre. Definitely not the Olympics. Still, back on my feet, and a final romp back through the starting field. Arms flailing as I dived into the pen, passing the invisible baton to my 2nd leg team-mates.

In my anoxic state, I clambered through the barrier, completely disorientated, and totally oblivious to the finishing pen and mandatory kit check to my left. It seems reasonable proof that I was trying hard at least, or that I’m an idiot, both plausible options. Redirected by the marshal, like a bouncer gently guiding an intoxicated patron, I emptied the contents of my race vest and thus validated my stint, with all the correct accessories, and we were done.

Back in warm and dry clothes, gleefully tucking into a polystyrene box full of chicken, rice and peas, I was very cheery man.

Over the day, the runners from the remaining legs returned, some jubilant, others glad to be passing the baton, sharing stories of the day’s trials and tribulations. A fantastic achievement by all, on a course with no easy legs, and conditions to match.

—Andrew Sandercock

Weets

“Do you fancy doing weets?”
“Do I fancy doing what?”
“It’s a race. Called Weets. A bit like a mini Tour of Pendle.”

Ah. That clinched it. Although I know this is perverse, I’m very fond of Tour of Pendle, maybe because I got a 25 minute minute PB on it last year on my birthday, or because I feel like a steely adventurer, Ernest Shackleton-like, when I remember the year before when I ran much of it through a snow blizzard. Even so, Weets should not have been an option: an hour’s drive to run just over five miles slightly skews the miles-effort scale that I usually operate under. (High Cup Nick is the one race that is immune to this scale.) So, up early on Saturday morning and over to The Other Side where the clubs are called Trawden and Barlick and have French in their names (Clayton-le-Moors) and they talk different. The weather forecast predicted heat, but I was chilly in the car and the sky looked overcast, so I was fooled. I didn’t apply suncream and I set off wearing a buff. Idiot. The race HQ was a small marquee in Letcliffe Park outside Barnoldswick (which I’ve only lately realised is where Barlick gets its name and that Barlick isn’t a place. To this, Jenny rightly said later, “there are some things you don’t admit to.”) The park is hidden off Manchester Road so that even when your sat nav tells you you’re there, you think you aren’t. Only the sight off to the right of juniors running up and down a hill made me realise I was in the right vicinity, and a phone call to already arrived folk got me into the ample car parking on the field in the park, which I’d never otherwise have found. See, navigation is always a necessary fell running skill.

£5 entry, which is just acceptable on the other well-known metric of fell-running, the Wallace-Buckley scale, a joint Scottish-Yorkshire effort devised by Jill Buckley and Neil Wallace, that dictates that no race should cost more than a pound per mile. This has the handy effect of ruling out most road races, so is very useful. There were more people there than I’d expected, but maybe everyone else was fond of Tour of Pendle too.

Up we go to the tarmac lane where the start is, and there is some milling. The NLFR team consisted of me and Jenny, so we had a collegiate photo with Neil, Karen and Gary from P&B where our vest sashes managed to almost perfectly reflect the race profile. (This might actually shut up the P&B comments about “your sash is going the wrong way” though probably not.)

Then from me, some dynamic stretching, also known as reminding my glutes they have work to do and not to leave everything to the hamstrings. I’ve just been diagnosed with hamstring tendinopathy, but this diagnosis, from the excellent Coach House Physio in Leeds, included the magic words:

You
Can
Still
Run

So I did. Eck though it was hot. Muggy but powerful heat. The buff came off straight away and I was thankful that I had conformed to my usual policy of always running with water even when hardly anyone else did. Up we go, up the tarmac road, and I felt sluggish and heavy but kept going. (I’m a cold weather runner.) Lots of Barlick supporters, so many that I began to think my name was Nicola, as it was constantly shouted in my direction. (She was just behind me.) Up and up to the trig point on Weets Hill, where I was surprised to see runners coming back down, and they all seemed to be aged about 11. I cheered them on, of course, as they seemed to be winning the race, then later found out that a juniors’ race had set off with us but was just going to the trig and back. So they weren’t actually winning our race but theirs. But still, well done.

After the trig, a lovely descent, whoosh, which was so good I forgot that we’d be going up again. I’d checked the race profile and knew that there were four climbs and that we’d only done two. Still, whoosh. The next climb was definitely the mini-Pendle one. I’d drunk plenty by that point but still felt a bit drained, and even more so when I looked up and saw a hill with no end. So I did my usual technique of counting. I have an entente cordiale method of getting up hills: if they are really huge (Whernside, Clough Head), I count in French. Backwards. Having a tired brain figure out the right order for deux cents quatre vingts dix neuf gets you up about thirty feet. I can get up Whernside in 300 in French, but Clough Head was about quatre cents. For smaller hills I use English. One to ten, for as many times as it takes. It passes the time, your brain is distracted enough not to think of all the climb you haven’t yet done, and you keep moving.

There was another fine descent down a familiar grassy field (the route is an out and back with a loop, so classic lollipop), where I ran past a fellow, while exclaiming, “I like this bit!”. I took this out of the fell running handbook, chapter, Stating The Bleeding Obvious. Then up a tarmac lane, back over the fields, a bit of moorland trod running where I could feel blokes breathing closely behind me, but they didn’t ask to pass so I didn’t offer. I hadn’t recognised Eileen Woodhead on the way out as she had a big floppy hat on, but it’s hard to miss Dave as he usually yells something at me. On the way out it was “ROSE I DIDN’T RECOGNISE YOU WITH YOUR NEW VEST ON” (“new” meaning about a year old). On the way back it was “DON’T LET THOSE TRAWDEN LADS GET YOU.” I tried not to, putting on a sprint down the lane to the finish that impressed me and probably shocked my muscles into remembering when I used to be a sprinter 35 years ago.

 

One of the lads did pass me and the other one didn’t. I managed to put the brakes on in time, and there was the usual splendid fell running habit of people you finish around saying well done and you saying well done back. I deviated slightly from this by telling the Trawden “lad” (actually a six-foot 40ish fully grown man) not to tell Dave he’d beaten me. Then I downed several cups of squash and we went to a pub and I ate a veggie burger that was bigger than me and all was well.

 

 

Buckden Out Moor and Back Again

May 5, 2018 (AS)

I agree, this race sounds like a book by J.R.R Tolkein and in hindsight it could have been. It had rocky climbs, epic scenery and new discoveries were made as well as hairy feet exposed. AS stood for ‘Ard and Sunny: it was a tough, hot day at the office but very enjoyable and highly recommended for the calendar next year.

The race was advertised as 5.1m with 1549ft of ascent, starting off at the Yorkshire Dales car park in Bucken. The route took us out up Buckden Rake to the summit of the Pike then down the disused lead mine back into the car park. The race organiser stated it would test you on the up and the down and he was not wrong.

I entered this race with very little fitness, as I’m still trying to find it, but I was looking forward to getting back out and giving it a go. As the race was only in its second year it had a very small field, 38 to be exact, and based on the two schoolgirl errors I’d made when packing, I had resigned myself to being back marker or thereabouts. The other eight female entrants were like racing snakes or very young. Annie Roberts from Todmorden won the women’s race, got the course record and was 10th overall. More on the schoolgirl errors shortly!

Anyway, having chatted with the race organiser and other runners I’d discovered it was 2.5 miles up, 2.5 miles down, with some more climbing once at the top. This was not too far from the truth with a few up and downs following the long slog to the pike. The downs were quite steep in places with some narrow paths but generally made for some good descents, though they were quad trashers.

Schoolgirl error #1. I left contact lenses at home so to had to run in glasses – not good for vision, confidence on the rocks and scores zero on the cool sunglasses look.

School girl error#2. I forgot my sports bra. This was a major concern while getting ready in my tent at Street Head as I’m not the smallest person in the world. Anyway, the new discovery was that my Inov8 back pack can double up as a bra or at least strap me down sufficiently to be able to run.

New discoveries made: The above errors must not happen again and also, I learnt what a Mangold Wurzel is.

Jenny Cooper

  

 

High Cup Nick

I love this race. I will try to do it no matter what. One year I did it with jetlag. Another year I’d overcome some other obstacle. This year I decided to do it while recovering from the second cold virus I’d had in two weeks. Reasonably, a friend asked if it wouldn’t be more sensible to stay in the warmth and fully recover. Another person responded by sending me a link about the dangers of viral myocarditis and how it is causing many deaths amongst young people because people are mistaking it for flu. I took this into account. But I didn’t have flu. The cold had not gone into my chest, it was on its way out, and I needed a day of fresh air.

On race day, I woke up with a profoundly upset stomach. Oh dear. I made a banana and yogurt smoothie and hoped that would work. But it was the first day for a while I hadn’t woken up spluttering. Nor had I needed to take any paracetamol, for the first time in a week. So I decided to set off and see how I felt. The race is organized by Morgan Donnelly, a fine fell runner and a fine emailer: he’d sent out two race information emails on Thursday and Friday, advising about parking. Dufton, race HQ, is a small and beautiful village with a small and beautiful village green, and quite rightly the organizers didn’t want people to park on it. The second email included information on “cheeky farm-yards” which might provide parking space and ended with “sleep well,” which is how you can tell it was written by a runner. All race information emails should finish with “sleep well.”

A nearly 200 mile trip to run a 9 mile race. But I knew it would be worth it, if I ran. The weather forecast had been chilling: 40kph winds on the tops and a wind-chill of -6. I even packed long tights, though of course I ran in shorts. We got there in good time and got priority parking in a farmer’s field, though I wasn’t sure, given how the tyres were spinning on the mud on the way in, how we’d get out again. Registration was at the village hall as usual, where there was the customary huge spread of cakes. The race is sponsored by Inov-8, which means a good serving of elite runners: I spotted Ricky Lightfoot and Vic Wilkinson before the start, in-between toilet visits and going for a short run to check my legs still worked. There were six NLFR’s running, and I managed to spot half of them though we didn’t manage a proper team photo.

We gathered on the green, Morgan made some race announcement that where I was standing was entirely inaudible, then he yelled “GO” and we went.

I set off and hoped for the best. My best, apparently, was not great. I managed to run up the first incline but felt very weak. Last Sunday I’d done hill reps in Pudsey valley and I’d not walked once, and felt really good. Now I was looking at the inclines coming up and dreading them. I very nearly pulled out in the first mile and was only stopped by the fact that I have never had a DNF and I’m stubborn. Instead, I patted my ego on its head and put it in a box, and carried on. I walked when I felt like walking, and I didn’t worry too much. The day was glorious. I was in a t-shirt and long-sleeve and perfectly comfortable. Sunshine and no wind, as we ran up the tarmac, then turned into the boggy bits. I knew from running this before that stretches that seemed flat were actually going uphill. So I splashed through all the bogs I could, and enjoyed it. The sun was out, the day was fine, and I was moving at pace through a beautiful landscape. All was well.

The race route runs along several shoulders of several contours. On each shoulder, I expected to round it and see the valley of High Cup Nick, but it took several turns before I did. So, into the valley, through more bogs, through a beck which was in a timid state and only calf-high, then the long boggy stretch up to the Nick.

It looks so benign in that photo. Such nice soft grassy ground. It didn’t feel benign. It felt like it feels every year, that the valley will never end, and the Nick will never come, and that all you have ever done is run ploddingly through boggy ground that sucks your legs into the earth like an underground triffid. Then the wind started. It had been forecast to push us up the Nick, but it changed its mind. It was a ferocious headwind, enough that I stopped to put on my jacket and nearly lost it to the valley. At least this year the boulder field wasn’t too slippery, despite someone near me saying, “ooh, this is dangerous.” I thought, wait till you get further up. I don’t have a good head for heights — and was reduced to a gibbering jelly on an ascent of Great Gable — but for some reason the Nick doesn’t bother me, although it’s steep and rocky and there is crawling.

I made sure to stop and turn round and gaze. If you don’t, it’s a waste of one of the most breathtaking views in fellrunning. I understand that elites can’t afford to stop, but I think otherwise you should or what’s the point?

At the top — after another good gawp at the landscape — there’s a run along the ridge, a couple of other inclines,  some snow and ice. I felt much better now the climb was over — funny that — and once we hit the track and the several miles of downhill, I forgot about the virus and the stomach-heaving chips, and I just ran as fast as my legs could carry me. I pelted it down. A couple of times I looked at my watch and saw with some surprise that my pace began with a 7, and a couple of times I almost fell but didn’t. I overtook a lot of people, and I stayed ahead of them, and I felt surprisingly good. The farm track goes on a long while, then ends at a checkpoint, a right turn into a field and a short climb. Actually it’s an incline, but after three miles of fast descending plus a mile of sharp climbing, a grassy incline makes for jelly legs. I walked for a bit, ran for a bit. In one of the fields, I found Phil, and he ran ahead of me to take my picture and I managed a smile and to flash my vest. Thanks Phil.

At one checkpoint, a marshal said, “well done! Last push. All downhill now.” I appreciated the encouragement  from him and all the other marshals: this is a very well organized race with copious flags and cheery marshals. But if I hadn’t been quite so tired, I would have realised: either that nice marshal doesn’t know the race route or he’s lying. There were two inclines to come, one a small but sharp one up a field, which feels larger and harder than it is. And the other in the last half mile, a track back up to Dufton, which I recognised and remembered as soon as I got to it, with a groan. But it was over soon enough, then the last effort round houses and farmyards, and back to the green. I really tried to push it and must have because Morgan on the finishing line had to put his hands up and say “Stop running!” so I did. I finally looked at my watch and was delighted. It wasn’t my quickest time — 1.43 — nor my slowest — 2.00 — but it was good enough for me. 1.53. I’m happy with that.  Well done to my fellow black-and-blues and hope you had a good run too. Results here.

 

Rose George

Ilkley Moor Fell Race

Sunday 18th February

A surprisingly pleasant February morning saw me rock up in Ilkley for the race.

My race diary (yes, sad I know!) tells me this is the 13th time since 1998 I have entered it. Nothing much changes, an absolute mud-bath of a course. The first mile up to the Cow and Calf rocks is the usual bottleneck with gnarly runners with their sharpened elbows trying to manoeuvre past slower runners (like me, I guess).

Despite running the course many times, the steep, rocky descent down to the bridge at Backstone Beck fills me with dread, one slip or trip either here or in Rocky Valley which is a bit further on and you will undoubtedly end up a bruised and bloodied mess. We received a buff with the race map printed on it for our efforts and it told me that the Crocodile Rock is situated in the aforementioned Rocky Valley, can’t say I had ever noticed it before but I have heard Elton John singing about it many times.

The section from Keighley gate back to the finish was a struggle to stay on your feet with the muddy, steep descent and those pesky bramble bushes conveniently placed just for you to fall into. For comedy value I lost my shoe in the mud 100 metres from the finish line and finished carrying it over the line!

As is tradition on Ilkley race day we enjoyed an afternoon pub crawl and I am pleased to report, many fine pubs now exist in the town, where as in days gone by the place was a bit of a desert for decent boozers.

John F had a good run, whilst we can gloss over what kind of run I had.

Lots of pics on the Woodentops site.

— Dave Beston

Windy Hill

A very wet and windy affair at Windy Hill Fell Race

I decided to cross the border into the Greater Manchester/Lancashire area to do this category B Medium fell race 9 miles/1281 ft. I fancied a change from the Dales and the Lakes and I didn’t encounter any traffic problems during the 50 minute drive on the M62.

The registration was at Littleborough Rugby Club down the road from the pretty setting of Hollingworth Lake and country park, near Rochdale. There was a strict kit check which revealed that my trusty but hardly ever used Montane trousers were only windproof and not taped at the seams which meant no run unless I could borrow a pair. It was frustrating because they were only going to stay in my kit bag but I understood organisers’ concerns about runners’ safety and potential hypothermia. Panicking, I spent about 20 minutes wandering around the rugby club trying to borrow trousers from other runners, then an angel in the form of John McDonald from Trawden A.C. lent me his spare pair which saved me a wasted trip back to Leeds. Next running purchase will be a pair of taped seamed waterproof trousers!

There was a healthy turnout of runners despite the atrocious weather and lots of comments on the start line about what else would we be doing on a Saturday morning, from watching cooking programmes on TV to lazy lie-ins. The latter being my preference. Even trudging round the White Rose Centre felt appealing as we stood in the mud-sodden field with the rain lashing down. These conditions more or less stayed the same throughout the race.

The front runners dashed off whilst I went out steady, unsure of my fitness for the distance and climbs. I expected a hilly start as you do in fell races but after leaving Littleborough rugby field we ran along a runnable track until we went over the first bridge crossing of the M62. We would later cross over and under several motorway bridges during the race which felt strange for a fell race. Fortunately I like a race with variety! I didn’t have much of an idea where I was running and followed the pack as usual. I thought I was in Lancashire but another runner commented that the race was mainly in Greater Manchester and that Saddleworth used to be in Yorkshire before the boundary changes in the 1970s. I couldn’t see too far ahead of me because of the clag and you couldn’t on avoid getting soaked to the skin, with a cutting wind in your face. At one point I couldn’t blink and thought I might have lost one of my contact lenses. In a masochistic way I settled into being uncomfortably comfortable. I know what I mean.

I was surprised how runnable the route was as we ran along some of the Pennine Way, a climb up the old Roman Road up to Blackstone Edge, another motorway bridge, a hard muddy and boggy slog up to Windy Hill mast, then an undulating path and along the Rochdale Way, then the usual scattering of runners running around or through crater like puddles, icy rocks before the descent, along more muddy filled tracks, under another motorway bridge, a fast runnable rocky path and back into the rugby field to the finish.

The race was well marshalled and flagged so it would have been difficult to go wrong en route, although I’ve learnt anything can happen in a fell race when the wind and rain are blurring your vision and you have got your head down! It was very runnable and the climbing manageable which suited me as I have been doing a few Park runs for speed work and hadn’t been running long distances or doing much hill work. I think a bit of cycling, gym work and swimming helped me tackle the tricky icy, wet, muddy underfoot conditions as I felt stronger as the race went on.

I would definitely do the race again and it was suitable for anyone who hasn’t done many fell races or who is making the transition from trail and road to fell running. There were a lot of fast times and good performances, particularly from some of the female vets. I was second in my age group but a good 12 minutes behind first place F50. It was good to see Karen Pickles, now running for Pudsey and Bramley AC, finishing third woman and 1st F45, taking home a couple of nice long-sleeve running tops. I had my eye on the bumper size Toblerones….  maybe next time!

At £12 EOD or £10 pre entry it seemed pricier than the usual fell race but there was an extensive prize list and 5 year age group prizes. There was also chip timing which I assume adds to the cost but results were speedily available once you crossed the finish line.

I’m looking forward to crossing the Lancashire/Greater Manchester border in the future.

Sharon Williams

Results
Winner Shaun Godsman M45 CVFR 1.01.57
1st woman Alice Swift F Chorlton Runners 1.16.33
121 Sharon Williams 2nd F50 NLFR 1.37.47
203 finishers
The race was organized by Cannonball Events, full results here.

Images by Paul Taylor. Full gallery available here.

Trigger

Trigger: Sunday 14th January

Wow, what a race! It’s an epic. A whole sheet of an OS map! And a race for the older person: more than 60% of runners were over 40. Place names like Pudding Real Moss, Soldiers Lump, Shining Clough Moss, Old Woman, Wool Pack, Fox Holes to name a few. What more could I want?  So, a run from Marsden to Edale, taking in the trig points at Black Hill, Higher Shelf Stones and Kinder Low.  Straight line measurement is 20 miles but actually around 24 miles with 4000 ft of climbing.

I first ran the race in 2015 and what stood out was the amount of navigation choices to make, the cold and the often poor visibility.  This year I really wanted to nail the route and be confident and ready for the clag, and if all going well perhaps make up a few places with some choice navigation.  I trained throughout October, November and December exploring different lines and establishing bearings.  Some beautiful, snowy and cold outings; returning back across the moors by torchlight.  Fantastic.

So we (Caroline, Dave, Anthony and I) arrived at an already heaving Marsden cricket club at 7:30am.  Kit check, some chit chat and then at 8:30am set off on our way by Nicky Spinks.  The first 10 miles or so over Black Hill down to Crowden were fine.  There was a spring in mine and everyone else’s step.

However, heading up to Lawrence Edge someone said to me “oh the race … it starts now”.  True words. As soon as I get to the top of the Edge, stinging cramp got me.  Very disappointing.  This meant from there on I had to take it steady across Shining Clough Moor.  All that training and sorting my lines out!  Let alone the fact the visibility was absolutely clear and the check points were marshalled by Woodhead Mountain Rescue people all wearing bright red.  There were moments when I felt a touch, I’m ashamed to say, hard-done-by.

Heading from Snake Pass the race goes off the Pennine Way to the site of an old plane crash, which required 20 minutes of trudging through the heather.  I did notice though some people make it look easy.  I could only look on in my just-cramping-trudging state.  After that, the race goes around the edge of Kinder to the Kinder Low trig.  Along this section it became bitterly cold, with frost blown grass, a luminescent fog down below and a lot fewer people around.  Quite eerie.  I needed to stop behind some rocks to get more clothes on and my hands were so cold I needed to ask a passer-by to pull my zip up.  At Kinder Low there is a choice of continuing on the high route around Kinder or on the low route along the Edale valley.  I continued along the high route and as the end neared picked up some energy and finally dropped down from below Grindslow Knoll chatting with another runner into Edale. Miraculously my cramp had disappeared.  All good.

Soup and cake in the village hall with the prize giving and finally to the Ramblers Arms for warmth, catching up and hot chocolate.

Winner 3:28, Anthony 33rd 4:26, Dave 85th 5:09, me 138th 5:47, Caroline 161th  6:17 and 173 finishers.

Alan Hirons

Stanbury Splash

14 January 2018, 1200ft  (BM)

This was a strange race this year as it was the first one not organised by Dave / Eileen Woodhead aka Woodentops. It was first  hosted in June 1984 apparently.   However, the registration was as efficient as ever, the race start was the usual mass gathering 300 metres in front of the official start line followed by the stampede out of the quarry.  I did miss Dave W shouting “get back you lot, get back”.

For me it was a tester to see if my two weeks of regular running and swimming had done anything to my fitness levels. Two weeks earlier I did what I call “died on my ass” at Auld Lang Syne and was blowing by the time I hit the Beck, ended up crawling the last few miles.  To my surprise this time I felt better all the way round and even managed to locate my gears for a sprint finish.

As most of you will know, Penistone Country Park comes with its own micro-climate and weather conditions can be harsher than the underfoot conditions.  However, the weather was kind and visibility good.  The route was the true “splash route” and was certainly splashy underfoot in parts especially over Sladen Beck and around Ponden Kirk.

Anyway, back to the race, I just avoided getting lapped by the race leaders but did manage to see that it was Ian Holmes who was in the lead at the passing point near Birch Brink. However, Jack Wood took the win overall in a time of 45.44, with Ian coming 2nd,  1st Vet and 1st MV50 in 46.04, Robin Howe 3rd.  The women’s race was won by Ruby Sykes in 54.38, with Annie Roberts 2nd and Jo Buckley in 3rd.  Wharfedale took the Men’s team prize and Todmorden took the Women’s.

As for NLFR we were down in numbers due to this race clashing with the Ilkley Skyline presentation event.  However, Andrew Byrom did 1.17 followed by me in 1.22, much improved from ALS.  Onwards and upwards for 2018.

Jenny Cooper

The Stoop

I’ve not run a fell race since June, due to focussing on the Dublin Marathon. So it was great to get back out on the moors. I drove over with Jenny Cooper and a friend from Pudsey Pacers. The forecast wasn’t great and on arrival the sheet ice on the car park gave an indication of what the course would be like.

Because of the ice, the route had been changed to a 4.2 out and back around the Stoop stone. I was a bit disappointed with this but it gave an opportunity to watch the leaders coming back down the hill as I was going up. The conditions made for tough running especially on the track from the road which was sheet ice the whole way and made runners stick to the verge, this spread the field out quite a bit as passing was virtually impossible.

My complete lack of hill training showed and it was slow progress up the hill. I was pleased though with my downhill form and I got up a decent pace and managed to stay upright. From the Stoop I gained 6 places and only lost 1 in the final 100m so was pretty pleased with that.

I got round in 53.02 which was reasonable. So the end of an era looms with the final ever Woodentops fell race taking place on 31 December, with the Auld Lang Syne. I’m looking forward to this and it looks like there will be a huge turnout from NLFR so it will be great to meet more club members.                                                — Andrew Byrom

 

 

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