Kong Winter Fell Race Series
5.6 miles, 1130 ft.
Registration for the first race of the series was held in a barn nestled under Bram Crags at the foot of Great Dodd. It was early November, very wet and very windy, with heavy clouds just touching the top of High Rigg on the other side of the valley.
I started off quite far back within the group. Within the first 50 metres there was a narrow bridge over St John’s Beck which constricted our flow causing some tripping over heels and elbows out from fellow runners. Once over the bridge and into the fields we spread out. The ground was heavy going, soft but pitted by cows hooves threatening to turn ankles for the unlucky.
I moved to the edge of the pack and increased my speed passing runners with ease, feeling strong and thinking I should have started further towards the front, or that — considerably more probable — I was not pacing myself very well for the hills that lay ahead.
We soon reached the footpath that traverses around the bottom of High Rigg to the southern tip before turning sharply and starting the first proper climb.There were a few gates to frustrate, and slippery slabs of rock too much for even the purest of graphene soles.
The path was narrow, pinched between the hillside on the right and the river down to the left. There were few overtaking opportunities for me or indeed those behind me so we snaked along close together, in silence apart from the sound of feet pounding the wet ground. The wind was howling through the trees, sending autumn leaves churning all around us.
I lost some places on the first climb, and when it got too steep for me to run I tried to take my rain jacket off and stuff it in my bum-bag. This turned out to be harder than it sounds while trying to scramble up a hill in high winds.
Wren Crag is the top of the first climb, then the route follows an undulating series of craggy outcrops, grassy slopes and deep mud around the perimeter of little tarns too small to be named. I battled against the wind with it repeatedly pushing me off-balance and making me unsteady on any exposed rocky sections.
As often happens, I found myself in a game of cat and mouse with a few runners, who I would pass usually on a climb, before they would then catch me up and fly past me with enviable descending ability.
High Rigg is the highest point, and I felt for the marshals stood out in these conditions, even the two collie dogs who are built for it looked unimpressed. From High Rigg there was a steep descent (where I was passed by a few more downhill experts) down to a farm track and then up the final climb.
Coming off Low Rigg there was a great section of downhill through soft springy wintered bracken, I managed to gain enough momentum to hold off anyone snapping at my heels.
At the bottom of the hill we joined the flat cow rutted fields again, this time with tired legs, head-on wind and biting rain. It all sapped any remaining energy I had, but the end was now in sight. I attempted a sprint for the finish line with high-fives from my kids leaning over the wall and cheering me in.
It was a great race in classic Lakes conditions, but I was glad we were heading for a warm pub and a late lunch.
I had finished 42nd overall, 37th in my category, netting me a measly 1 point in the series standing. I vowed to try and work on my descending skills for race 2 in December.