“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:
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.