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.
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.
Peco Race 4 Middleton Park 21 January 2018
On a snowy January Sunday morning I made my way to Middleton Park for the 4th race in the PECO XC series with fellow NLFRs Matt John and Ian Furlong. With the club not being part of this series, Matt was running as a guest in his first race in over year after his hip op, whilst Ian and I were running for our second claim clubs, Roundhay and Abbey.
The PECO series is incredibly popular and over 700 senior runners set off in the staggered men’s and women’s races. The course was fast, undulating and very muddy. Great speed work for the fells.
Matt was ninth overall, having stated beforehand that he would be taking it steady….With three weeks more training until race 5, he will be pushing for a win. Ian was happy with 54th and is getting stronger with each run. I was delighted to get 74th after so much time out over the past year with injury.
Roll on the Northerns at Harewood House this Saturday (27th January) with NLFRs Phil, Richard and myself running a 12k course and pretending that we should be in the same race as some of the best runners in North England.
Matt with Abbeys Jim Whitaker, John Ward and James Franklin
For the Gathering Winter Fools relay, organised by Keighley & Craven, we fielded a women’s team. The weather was cold: sun overhead and ice underfoot. Leg 1 runners Sharon and Cat set off carrying Ruby the Reindeer baton.
They beat the cut-offs, but Ruby the Reindeer baton didn’t make it further than Leg 2, staying in the hands of Jenny and Hilary, who had dressed properly for such an honour. (Jenny searched for months for her special speed-inducing ear-muffs.)
Lisa and Kate set off with the mass start of Leg 3, tinsel in place.
They just missed their cut-off, finishing in 46 minutes, and arriving to see the mass starters of Leg 4 setting off down the canal. Leg 4 was Rose and Liz, who managed to survive the abandoned shopping trolleys and the picturesque ginnels of Keighley, making it back in 1.12. The team came placed 32nd of 42, in a Keighley & Craven turkey & bauble sandwich.
Full results are here. NLFR sends its best wishes to Julian Hood of Barlick, who broke his ankle on Leg 1, and salutes the runners of Bingley and Wharfedale who stopped to help him. The conditions were icy and treacherous, despite the sunshine, so well done to everyone who raced. Even Ruby the Reindeer.
I had an interesting and surprisingly satisfying run today at my second Really Wild Boar Fell race (5 miles/1401ft) near the hamlet of Street off the A683 Kirkby Stephen/Sedbergh road. There was a lot of clag and it was very windy on the tops which led to a few runners getting lost (me included) and wandering in the mist looking out for shadowy figures of runners and bumping into several fell ponies! I was fortunate to be with a small group and was led back on the quick descent back down the bridle path to the finish. Quite a few runners missed the last checkpoint and we passed them as they were having to run back. This meant I was quite a few places higher than I should have been, but I will gladly snap up any advantages in a race.
I finished 78th out of 99 runners. Many of the fell running elite were out, including Mr Dave McGuire, for your typical fell race: cost 4 quid, registration out of a camper van and a couple of checkpoints that consisted of you dropping a token in a bucket. The winner was Carl Bell (Keswick), second Joe Baxter (Pudsey & Bramley), third Ted Mason (Wharfedale), Rob Jebb (Helm Hill) was well placed too. The female winner was Sharon Taylor (Helm Hill), second was Rachel Pilling (Pudsey & Bramley) and third Debbie McGowan (Accrington). Helm Hill won the female team prize, Pudsey & Bramley first men’s team. Next year’s race will be going on tour and to fit in with the FRA dinner to be hosted by P&B will be held in Ilkley around the weekend of the 9/10 November 2018.
Sharon with her eyes on the prize. Plus some boars. And a Fishwick. Image by @fellrunninbrief
We had three teams entered for the British Fell Relays (also known as the FRA relays), which this year were held in Llanberis, Wales, on Sunday October 15, the day before Hurricane Ophelia was due to arrive. The teams were FV40, Male Open and NFLR Boys n’ Girls (mixed). Conditions on the tops were what fell-runners call “a bit breezy” (see earlier point about Hurricane Ophelia), but all our teams did brilliantly. Thanks, Dominic, for organizing all the teams, and well done to all our runners. Top three places: Dark Peak, Edinburgh University and Keswick. Well done to them, and many thanks to Eryri Harriers for their very successful hosting of a great event. Our results:
And a few images, taken by Dave Cooper, Dave Beston, and Dominic Nurse.
What is it about Langdale and me? Every year I do the race there’s a “problem” and a “success”. On the problems front, over the years there’s been terrible cramp, a lack of fitness, bashing my knees, getting stuck on the Bad Step, wonky lines etc. In an attempt to resolve these problems, I go back to Langdale every year to practice. This year’s focus was on three tasks of getting the lines right up Bowfell, up Crinkle Crags and the line between Great Knott and Cold Pike on the way to Pike of Blisco.
Yesterday these all went pretty well with ongoing attention needed on the very slippery rocks, at times we are literally going at a snail’s pace. So, all is going well for me and I arrive at Pike of Blisco in 193rd position having moved up from my 268th position at Stickle Tarn. I head off east, feeling good, knowing my way down to the finish. Oh such confidence!
I realise after a while I’m not recognising where I am. I stop, relocate. Ah, I’m looking South onto Wrynose Pass. In my slightly disappointed and not thinking state (to put it mildly) and my need for something definite in the landscape I continue south onto the road (lots of lessons in this about my ability to keep thinking in the midst of tiredness and a race mindset – I should have headed north). I make my way round by a circular route to the final checkpoint at the cattle grid beneath Side Pike and I’m now in 296th position! I finish in 305th position. Mmm, all I can do is smile, feel a little sheepish and giggle to my-self. So, the practice for next year is …. One consolation is that the route over Blea Moss, past Tarnclose Crag and Blea Tarn is beautiful, well worth a picnic. — Alan Hirons
Images by Cal Ferguson and Hilary Barber