Borrowdale Fell Race 2016

Beautiful Rosthwaite

Beautiful Rosthwaite – The start and finish of Borrowdale Fell Race

Borrowdale is my third and final of the Lakeland Classic series of fell races for this year.  I had previously completed the Ennerdale Horseshoe and Wasdale Fell Race within the last couple of months (links here to my blogs on those races).

http://www.lakelandclassicstrophy.org.uk/

I was hoping for a more enjoyable run at Borrowdale given what had happened at the previous two.  This year, Borrowdale was one of the six races that made up the 2016 English Fell Running Championship, in which to qualify you need to do several of the races and include at least one of the two ‘long’ races – either Borrowdale or the slightly shorter Langdale in October.

Where did it all go right?

I crossed the finish line exhausted and collapsed into a heap, regained composure enough to get a small plastic cup of orange cordial and promptly collapsed again.  I knew I had missed my time from last year by a little but my pre-race hope was that I would actually knock off a bit too and finish sub 3:45:00.  Up until the last half mile of flat country lane to the finish I had felt good.  Strong even.  Since Honister Pass at check point 6 I had passed no fewer than seven other runners while climbing and then descending Dale Head to finish the race back in Rosthwaite.

Start and Finish Sign

At this point last year I was struggling in a big way.  I had attacked Great Gable and it had broken me and cast me out the other side in pieces, losing time and places to those around me.  Unable to keep up, my recollection is one of some tough miles down to Honister Pass and from there to the finish had been hellish.

Had I run a brilliant first half last year and just over cooked it?  This year I had been steady and methodical.  A year is a long time in fell running and my experience and exposure to the difficult conditions that the Lake District can throw at you should have set me up to smash the previous year.  So how come I ran near enough the same time?  The following blog is my race analysis.

Year Finishing Position Total Starters Positional Percentage Conditions Comments
2015 69th 286 24.13% Bright & Clear
2016 102nd 384 26.56% Sunny / marginally hotter English Championship Race

Start to Bessy Boot (CP1)

2015 time 00:36:54

2016 time 00:39:32

Difference +00:02:38

Pre Race Selfie

Pre Race Selfie

I knew it got tight within about a quarter a mile of the start but I hadn’t got myself into the best starting position and before I knew it we were off.  Rather than jostle for position I thought I’d just go with the flow and enjoy the parade around the village before the race really began when I could then make some moves.  It was, however, worse than I thought with sections completely stationary while we squeezed together into the bottlenecks.

Once we started heading up towards the fell gate things got easier but in the interest of not blowing up in the first couple of miles I mainly maintained position just picking off one or two runners who had got a little giddy at the start, put in a 7 minute mile and were now huffing and puffing with almost 16 more miles to go.

As I passed the fell gate and began the brutal ascent of Bessy Boot I could see the indelible Dark Peak Fell Runners pair of Nicky Spinks and Judith Jepson not too far ahead and so long as I wasn’t losing ground on these amazing ladies I knew I was doing ok.  Last year I had followed Judith almost from the start to the screes of Scafell Pike where I passed her before she left me on Gable never to be seen again and finished almost ten minutes ahead of me.

Nicky had been my guide between Seatallon and Pillar during the bleak Wasdale fell race a month earlier and had finished that day well ahead of me but knowing that she has the UTMB coming up later this month I thought this would be a steady training run for her – if a little short!

Summary – Lost time at the start that could have been avoided if I had got a better position on the start field.  It is literally the first quarter mile where it’s worth a little exertion to get your place on the narrow path where you can relax into the race.  More runners and more frantic given it was a Championship race.


Bessy Boot (CP1) to Esk Hause (CP2)

2015 time 00:42:42

2016 time 00:43:13

Difference +00:00:32

I’d reached the summit of Bessy Boot with Judith and Nicky just ahead of me and I was feeling good.  I heeded the advice of Nicky Spinks who in her blog had said to eat within the first hour of a long run.  This was no Bob Graham Round but still I thought it best to make hay while the sun shone and had my first gel about a mile into this section.  Feeling good I continued at a good pace without really pushing myself too much as I knew what was to come.  It was here I was passed by Mark Walsh of Darwen Dashers whom I had run Snowdon Race with a few weeks prior and also Neil Armitage of P&B who I know from being local to where I live.

Almost before I knew it I was at Esk Hause and looking up towards the summit of England’s highest mountain.

Summary – Not sure where I lost the 32 seconds here.  Probably my youthful exuberance in 2015 being tempered by my experience of bonking* on long races.  I am a V40 runner now!

*Bonking – To suddenly and without warning go into complete physical and mental shut down mode with dizziness, hunger and exhaustion taking over.  This can be overcome quite quickly with intake of food or gels but is best avoided completely by constant eating throughout the race.


Esk Hause (CP2) to Scafell Pike Summit (CP3)

2015 time 00:25:01

2016 time 00:24:50

Difference -00:00:11

I had been at this very same point four weeks earlier during the Wasdale race.  On that day, in biblical conditions, I couldn’t tell where I was.  I just knew I was at the start of the climb up England’s highest peak.  There were no tourist hikers that day, not even the sheep were braving it.  Today though was Borrowdale and the next mile and a half would be a much happier experience.

I was climbing well and now passed my early pacers of Nicky and Judith and also caught and passed Neil and a bemused looking Mark.  Not bemused because I was passing him but bemused with the terrain which is not very ‘runable’ given large parts are just boulder fields of sharp jagged rocks where a misplaced foot and a slip could put you out of the race.  I however spent many a holiday in my youth scrambling about the rocks on Filey Brigg or Robin Hoods Bay beach and I think this helped me make some good route choices and good time.

Half way up I slowed to retrieve some malt loaf from my bum bag and devour it, which isn’t easy while still climbing a mountain.  A Clayton-Le-Moors runner passed me and said not to slow as he was following me and pacing himself on me.  I chatted for a moment between bites and said 01:45:00 to the top of Scalfell Pike last year had got me home in under 4 hours which I think encouraged him.  This malt loaf was not to get me up Scafell though it was my energy for Great Gable, the next climb, in around forty minutes time.

I finished my snack and had some water then picked up pace again, retaking the Clayton guy who I never saw again.

Summary – 11 seconds quicker is neither here nor there but I felt good, I was looking forward to the run down Scafell and had already eaten ahead of the next climb.


Scafell Pike Summit (CP3) to Sty Head (CP4)

2015 time 00:21:37

2016 time 00:21:48

Difference +00:00:11

Sir Isaac Newton said “What goes up must come down” and in the case of fell running this is what most of us live for.  At the summit of Scafell Pike there is barely time to look around and catch your breath and it’s off again.  There is a direct, steep, route from the summit to the Corridor Path which then takes you down to Sty Head.  This involves running down the scree*.

*Scree – loose rocks, stones and boulders of varying sizes that lay on the mountain and on each other rather then being stuck into the mountain.  When stepped upon they move downwards, taking you with them.

Not everyone’s cup of tea but I enjoy scree running.  The movement of the loose stones gives some welcome relief to your aching leg muscles and joints and as every step takes you sliding a few feet further down the mountain you can cover the ground very quickly.  Being on the side of a steep mountain running on ground that moves under your feet is not without it’s worries and you need to remain focused and committed to avoid certain death (well a fall at least).

Corridor Route

Corridor Route

Once down the scree it’s a fast run down to Sty Head which is the lowest part of the land between the Lakeland giants of Scafell Pike and Great Gable.  There is the main Corridor Path to follow or a few short cuts across the grass.  I was following a few other runners looking confident in their route choices across the grass so I mainly continued after them through to the check point.

Summary – Although I think some of the route choices were good, others were not so good and I think I could have run faster on the main path and actually lost 11 seconds to 2015 here. However I did gain 15 places so must have done something right.

 


Sty Head (CP4) to Great Gable Summit (CP5)

2015 time 00:24:27

2016 time 00:24:27

Difference 00:00:00

Great Gable from Corridor Route

Great Gable (right) from Corridor Route

As I’m sat writing this while watching the GB boys in the velodrome in Rio winning Gold it’s interesting that success and failure in their world is often the difference of a fraction of a second.  This is not something that usually figures in fell racing but the numbers above are not a lie and so I had climbed Great Gable in exactly the same time, to the second!

A quick drink at the bottom where I noticed Joss Naylor sat spectating along with his dog and a good number of other people at this popular spot.  I gave his dog a stroke and and looked up at what was ahead of me just as some cloud had covered the summit.  Up Gable it’s heads down, hands on thighs and grind out the steps.  It’s one mile up with just under 1500ft of climbing.  If a flight of stairs at work tires you out then think about walking up them continually for 25 minutes!

One of the runners I’d followed down Scafell Pike was a Dark Peak runner who I have since deduced to be Dave Sykes and he had taken some good lines, looking like a man in the know.  I stayed with Dave for the climb as it felt like a good pace without being too much for me. There’s not going it be any navigation errors on the way up but I knew that the line off the top of Gable was open to some interpretation and I wanted to avoid an unwanted diversion over to Brown Base or up Brandreth.

Summary – Exact same time as last year but I was in a much better place physically and gained 3 places.


Great Gable Summit (CP5) to Honister Pass (CP6)

2015 time 00:28:37

2016 time 00:29:08

Difference -00:00:31

I unashamedly followed Dave from the summit and when he shouted to a fellow Dark Peak runner ahead of us to change trajectory I felt my faith was justified.  Having looked back at my Strava Flyby the lines taken by us were very close to those of Ricky Lightfoot and Karl Gray and they did ok!

I had a bit more to eat as I was starting to feel it a bit and I knew Dale Head was still to come.  The temperature was feeling a bit higher and I knew there would be a big bucket of orange juice at the Honister check point.  As I ran through the car park of the slate quarry where there were some quite big crowds I was offered some marshmallows by GB International runner Heidi Dent which gave me a much welcome boost ahead of the last climb.

Summary – Despite feeling much better than last year and taking some better lines I managed to lose another 31 seconds to my 2015 time.


Honister Pass (CP6) to Dale Head Summit (CP7)

2015 time 00:26:31

2016 time 00:24:29

Difference +00:02:02

Another mile with 1250ft ascent and the climbing would be done for the day.  It was here that I climbed very well.  I left mountain guide Dave behind and although the next group of runners had a good few minutes head start I began to catch them, overtaking five runners on this tough section.

I was pleased at the sight of my friend Calvin Ferguson, who had come to spectate today, stood with a bag of jelly babies and a few words of encouragement.

Summary – Good work rate taking just over two minutes against my 2015 time.


Dale Head Summit (CP7) to Finish

2015 time 00:25:41

2016 time 00:24:49

Difference +00:00:52

View of the final descent into Rosthwaite

View of the final descent into Rosthwaite

The last check point was a welcome sight.  I knew there was still a slog down to the finish which would be tough but I was still feeling positive and in decent shape.  I’d passed some good runners and quite often it’s the case that they might favour descent and I might lose the places I had worked hard to gain.  It’s two and a half miles and I was now looking forward to doing something I had not done for the last three and a half hours – stopping!

The initial descent is steep and your legs let you know they are not happy about it.  You drop down to Dalehead Tarn and skirt around to the right of it.  I wanted to jump in and give my muscles the relief they craved but dismissed these thoughts and continued on.

It turns steep again as you go through an old disused slate quarry where I found myself in a race within the race between two strong women in Lucy Spain of Helm Hill Runners and Helen Berry of Holmfirth Harriers.  I knew these ladies would be high up their field and contesting for valuable Championship points so I allowed myself to get dragged into the battle with my aim to finish strong.

As the slate gave way to bracken covered slopes and the first flags appeared to guide us back I knew it was not far to go now.  I took a better line than Lucy and got ahead of her with Helen further down the slope.

Over the stile and onto the last half mile of track.  I was spent now.  I wanted to just stop and walk to the end but kept going, unable to catch Helen by managing to retain my position.

I later found out that by the time I had recovered my breath the winner, Ricky Lightfoot, had managed to get himself away and into work to start his shift in the Cumbia Fire Service!

Summary – Good strong finish and brilliant day slightly marred by me not beating last years time.  It only means I will have to come back again next year and put that right!

Thanks to Borrowdale Fell Runners and all the sponsors for putting on a brilliant race.  Thanks to all the volunteer marshals without whom these races could not take place and thanks to Borrowdale Mountain Rescue who I have never needed but, like an insurance policy, I’m thankful they are there.

Post Race kit

Gerry Springer Borrowdale Summary

It’s days like this I wish I could bottle and share with everyone, which is why I decided to start blogging.  It’s not to brag ‘look at me, aren’t I amazing’, it’s an appreciation of the world we live in, and of truly feeling alive.  The mental and physical limits of the human being, the best and worst of the elements that mother nature throws at us and the majestic beauty of the mountains, fells, lakes and tracks we engage ourselves with and travel through.  It’s Joss and his dog quietly watching, Billy and Gavin Bland milling around in Rosthwaite getting the race set up.  Running shoulder to shoulder with current GB Internationals, former heroes, upcoming stars and true legends of the sport and not feeling out of place.

Days like Borrowdale and Wasdale, The Three Peaks or The Tour of Pendle all invoke emotion and fill me with a sense of achievement and a sense of learning valuable lessons and skills not only about surviving in mountains but in how to deal with life on the whole.

Andrew Britton 22/08/2016

 

 

 

 

 

Horton Parkrun – Idle AC Championship Race #7

Saturday 30th July was the 7th race in our new championship and the 2nd one to be a Parkrun.  This time we ventured from the familiarity of Lister Park and across town to Horton Parkrun.  A record attendance of nine of us were there on the start line at 9am along with with Emily and Susan who are new to the club having been to our training sessions for a few weeks now.  It was great to have so many of us there in a total field of just 74 runners.  Sam was there too to support Naomi as he had run on Friday night instead.

Results

2nd Andrew

9th Sean

10th Peter

12th Geoff

14th Dave

16th Antony

22nd Naomi (1st Lady)

38th Len

70th Ana

Well done all.  Three race left now with the next one being Bramley Parkrun on 10th September followed by Bradford Half Marathon on 30th October and Abbey Dash 10k on 6th November.

Sam, Sean and Peter – you all need to do the last 3 races to qualify for an end of season position!

Results #7

Bingley Show – Idle AC Club Championship Race #6

Bingley fun in the sun?

Saturday 23rd July was the Bingley Show 10k.  A fell/trail race around the Bingley St Ives Estate with plenty of hills and some good fast trails.

Bingley Show was also the 6th race in our inaugural club championship and we had a good turn out (for us).

The sun was hot and the runners hotter with Ilkley Harriers GB International Tom Adams winning the race and setting a new course record of 38:17 while our own Sam Clegg was hot on his heels finishing 5th overall in 43:57.

A big ‘Well Done’ too to Naomi who was 8th lady.

Position Name Category Club Time
5 Sam Clegg M Idle 43.57
15 Andrew Britton MV40 Idle 49.26
37 Peter Hilliard MV50 Idle 55.3
50 Geoff Spence MV50 Idle 57.44
61 Naomi Armitage F Idle 59.47
62 David Lewis MV50 Idle 60.19
118 Len Shepherd MV60 Idle 1.17.51
145 Anastasia Lincoln FV60 Idle 2.14.08

Race #6 Results

The next race in the club championship is next Saturday over at Horton Parkrun.  Let’s try and get another strong turn out for the club!

Andrew

41st International Snowdon Race 2016

Races (and blogs) coming thick and fast at the moment.  With my legs still aching, scabbed and bruised from Wasdale the previous Saturday I turned my attention to Wales and the Snowdon Race.

Pre Race wet Llanberis

Pre Race wet Llanberis

The 41st International Snowdon Race (as it it correctly known) was going to be a big event and I’d been given the option of a stay over at the Royal Victoria Hotel in Llanberis following the race which was appealing.  I’d seen the TV highlights from 2015 and Ben Mounsey, who finished 3rd in that race, had recommended it and so it had made my 2016 ‘Race List’.  There were going to be some runners with real pedigree here and not just the English fell runners who regularly amaze and beat me most weeks.  This week I was going to be beaten by some top Internationals too!

That’s not to say I wouldn’t be giving it my all and running as fast as I could but I wasn’t going to be troubling the business end of the race.

Straight Up – Straight Down

The race is straight forward and even though the Welsh weather was not looking favourable, there would be no need for a map and compass this week, no need to cling onto anything for dear life (refer to my previous post on Wasdale).  Five miles up and 5 miles back down the same way.  With this thought in mind and knowing it was less than half the distance and around a third of the climb of last week, I was feeling relaxed and without my usual pre-race nerves.  Instead I was just happy to be part of it with no pressure on myself to do well.

We gathered on the starting field.  Myself, Calvin Ferguson (CVFR), Simon Taylor and Mark Walsh (both Darwen Dashers).  The three of them are all from Darwen and I only recently got to know them via races and social media, which is part of what makes our sport so great.  A good set of lads – even if they are from the wrong side of the Pennines!  A few laps of the field by the lake to warm up and then, lured by the shouty Welshman on the tannoy system, we made our way to the start.

Pre Race Selfie. Left to right - Simon Taylor (Darwen Dashers) Me (Idle AC) Calvin Ferguson (CVFR)

Left to right – Simon Taylor (Darwen Dashers) Me (Idle AC) Calvin Ferguson (CVFR)

“There’s no point getting to the front” I thought, as it would make more sense to take it slow and steady and pick off the over enthusiastic locals on the slopes.  Five miles and over 3000ft of climb will soon separate the masses.  14:00, the hooter sounded and off we went with the internationals leading the way.

The first mile is all tarmac but after just a few yards it became very steep tarmac and I lowered my cadence and adjusted my breathing.  “Slow and steady” I reminded myself.  The pre-race advice had been to avoid a lactic acid build up before the mountain started for real and I was keen to follow this.

The crowds were amazing with cheering and cow bells ringing right from the off.  Anyone wearing Welsh colours was getting loads of support and you get the feeling Wales is a very proud nation at the moment, as they should be.

Slow and steady – keep plugging away

The field now started to spread out nicely and although the weather was not good there were still plenty of bemused walkers heading both up and down the mountain wondering who these idiots in shorts and vests were.  I continued to improve my position up the climb probably passing five or six runners to every one runner that passed me.  Nice to get a shout, a wave and a photo taken by Stuart Russell of Liverpool RC around the halfway point.  Although not running today, Stuart is another who I keep bumping into at races and he is always laughing.

Almost Half Way (Photo Courtesy of Stuart Russell)

Almost Half Way (Photo Courtesy of Stuart Russell)

Now it was getting tough.  The legs were starting to ache and the lungs were starting to burn.  I wondered how long it would be before the first runner thundered past me going the other way and who would it be?  I kept on climbing with no sign of anyone yet, into the mist with the rain getting heavier and the wind whipping up.

Eventually it came in a blur of red and white.  England were leading but it was not my fellow Yorkshireman Ben Mounsey, it was Chris Smith who I must admit, I knew very little of before this race.  Then a gap.  What seemed like an age passed with nobody else coming down as I continued upwards but then they came…

Blue next, one of the Italians, followed by Chris Farell of England flying past.  The Frenchman Julien Ranchon was next, hotly followed by the second Italian and then multiple fell running championship legend Rob Hope of Pudsey & Bramley AC 6th.  Ben was next and I offered some encouragement but doubt he heard it.  All four England runners in the top 7. Wow.

They were coming thick and fast now and I don’t know enough of them to list them all but gave Ricky Lightfoot a shout as he went past, and Karl Gray too.  Both fell running heroes of mine.

As the cascade continued I was nearing the summit and still climbing well.  The last stretch from the marker, where the Pyg track and Miners track converge with the main Llanberis path, to the summit always seems longer than I remember even though I had only last been here in May.  That had been a windy but sunny day and I had dragged my wife Rachel, and my two boys along with other family members and dogs up to the summit via the steep Pyg track.  Today the sun was not out and there was no view of the surrounding mountains of Snowdonia and the North Wales coastline.  The rain was now hard and the wind blustery as I went through the summit check point and began the five miles back down.

Back down to earth

The rock was wet and with the scars of Wasdale still fresh, both physically and metaphorically I was cautious to run flat out to begin with.  Add to that the large number of tourists, dogs and other runners and I began my descent tentatively but my X-Talons seemed to grip the rock well here on this Welsh mountain unlike in Cumbria last week where I had slipped a lot.  Not being a geologist I couldn’t be sure but I decided that it was different rock and therefore different grip which equals you being able to run faster.

‘Release the brakes!’

This wasn’t just a race for men.  The ladies were very well represented here with each nation also having a women’s team as well as a men’s and not surprisingly these girls are amazing runners.  A good handful had passed me on their way back to Llanberis with Ireland’s Sarah Mulligan first and Heidi Dent of England not far behind.  Lou Roberts and Katie Walshaw were also on their way down whilst I was still aiming for the summit but I wasn’t too far behind.  I now found myself in a strung out line of runners containing two Scottish girls and a Welsh girl quite far ahead along with a few other blokes and we were all motoring down the mountain.

Release the brakes!

Release the brakes!

There are a few racing lines that are slightly ‘off piste’ and you can gain a few valuable seconds by running on the grass.  I was following an Eryri runner who was taking said routes and this was a good choice as we made up time on the girls leading us.  Up ahead, one of the leading Scottish girls had fallen and another runner had stopped to aid her and shouted to the next few of us to inform the next marshal we saw, which we did.  (I hope she was ok).

About half way down now and the sky was clearing and with it the temperature was rising too.  Ahead was Welsh girl Sian Williams and she was being reeled in by the remaining Scottish girl Charlotte Morgan and I was flying after both of them.  Looking back at my Strava for this section I managed a 5k P.B. of 18min 34sec and one of the miles in 5min 43sec which is fast (for me!).  Charlotte was past Sian now and pulling away from me too even as I also passed Sian.  My legs were reminding me of the 9000ft of climbing I had done the previous Saturday and I was looking forward to the finish.

Chase

Chasing Charlotte Morgan (picture courtesy of Stuart Russell)

To my surprise I caught and passed Katie Walshaw as we both hit the tarmac with a mile to go.  Katie is a great runner and I know her best from the Woodentops Bunny Runs which she usually wins in a much faster time than I can muster.

Almost back now and Charlotte was gone but an Eryri runner was up ahead and looking like he was slowing.  Could I take an extra bonus place in the last 200 metres?  Just before the turning onto the finishing field I passed him, expecting a sprint finish driven by the Welsh supporters on the home straight but it didn’t come, and I crossed the line ahead of him.

95th position overall in a time of 1:26:50.  A good time and within a few minutes of a couple of the International male runners.

Watching the Awards

Watching the Awards

Evening Sunshine Post Race

Evening Sunshine on Snowdon Post Race

Conclusion

Snowdon is a great, well organised race.  Truly an ‘event’ and one well worth taking part in and I dare say I will be back another year to do it again.

However, for me, there is a romance attached to a low key fell running event where you turn up and pay a few quid with about 100 other like minded souls, register in a tent, pub or scout hut and get on with it.  To me it feels secure, nostalgic, like a family or a secret society that Joe Public neither knows about or cares about.  It’s exclusive while at the same time being one of the most inclusive sports in the world.  The kit is fairly basic, cheap to get together and it doesn’t matter if you are 18 or 80, you will be welcome.  You can run in the same race as a Great Britain International and these people are real –  not like football stars in their media bubbles believing their own hype and price tags.  The only prerequisite is a love of the outdoors and the hills across our land.  This, for me is what fell running is all about.

https://www.strava.com/activities/644474376

 

Wasdale Fell Race – 9th July 2016

Almost four hours into Wasdale Fell Race.  To be precise 3:48:24 to do these 15 miles.  The last mile alone has taken me over 25 minutes but I am now 2816ft above sea level at the summit of Great Gable.  The weather is vile, horrendous, hideous and debilitating.  Gail force winds drive sharp rain into my face even though my head is lowered.  The rain is coming upwards, wind blowing from the Irish Sea a few miles away along the valley then towards me at a ferocious speed for 2816 feet until it smashes into my face, but I’m at the top.

A group of three people are sat trying to get some shelter behind the summit and they ask for my race number, obscured by my waterproof, although how much good it is now doing is questionable.  “40”, I shout through the wind and as I stoop to hand in my check point token there is a respite from the frontal assault of the wind.  “Are you ok?” I ask them, as I half expected someone to be saying the race is abandoned and to get down off the mountain as fast as you can before we all die, “Save yourself man!!!” – in my head this is what they were going to shout.  But this is fell running.  Fell running in the most beautiful and terrifying mountains in England and the race is not cancelled, the marshals are content and I must continue.

I had climbed behind another runner and as he had checked in before me he was already disappearing into the mist and rain to begin his descent.  Split second decision.  Stay here exposed and take my own compass bearing while taking a thrashing from the rain or follow the man disappearing quickly.  I lifted my head back up and immediately a wall of water smashed into me and I stepped forward after the vanishing man, this was the wrong decision…

Some Time Earlier

Rewind to February and whilst planning races for this year I wanted to ensure I completed enough ‘Lakeland Classics’ to qualify for the the ‘Lakeland Classic Trophy’.  Not, you understand, to compete with regards to winning anything but just to look back on it and tell the kids/grandkids in years to come that I qualified in scoring points and getting a place in the overall standings of this trophy at least once.

Wasdale on a nice day!

Wasdale … on a nice day!

The history of the trophy does not go back that far.  Devised in 2002 as a way to help to keep some of these very long, very tough races alive as attendances were dwindling, it is not everyone’s idea of a good day out.  Thankfully the introduction of this trophy, for which you need to complete two super long and one long category race in a season and also the ‘Feet in the Clouds’ affect (you’ll have to look this up if you don’t know what I’m talking about) have helped to drive the numbers back up.

So planning my races I had decided that I would do Ennerdale and Wasdale as my super long races and Borrowdale as my long race, with an option on The Three Shires too in September if not on holiday.  Having done Borrowdale last year and a couple of Bob Graham leg recces I knew running in the Lakes was tough but it wasn’t until I’d signed up that people started saying things like ‘Wasdale? You’re doing Wasdale?’.  These were people who knew fell running, knew it’s history and just how tough it can be and now they were looking at me, I like to think, with a sense of admiration but realistically they were thinking “this fool has no idea!”

Wasdale, at 21 miles long and a leg wobbling 9000ft of climbing, was going to be the most I had climbed in a day.  Ever.  It was not without a little trepidation, therefore, that I had an eye on the weather forecast all week, but after tales of the year where people were getting serious heat stroke (2014?)  a bit of light rain and slight breeze looked favourable.

Wasdale Profile

Wasdale Profile

Wasdale Fell Race - Strava

Wasdale Fell Race – Strava

Getting There

Wasdale is a real bugger to get to, but this is probably what keeps it so beautiful and unspoilt. The crowds that come to walk up England’s highest mountain (Scafell Pike) tend to do so from the other side, from Seathwaite and via Keswick.  So once again my plan for the day was roughly 3 hours drive, 1 hour pre-race, 5 to 6 hours running, quick cuppa and piece of cake and 3 hours painful drive home.  This in itself is a challenging plan.

Once I’d crossed the M6 the rain had really started and I knew the day was going to be a wet one but at least with a temperature of around 16C it might not get too cold, although it would be a good few degrees lower at altitude.  Race registration was a tent in a field with a separate tent next to it where you could remain dry but most of the runners were still sat in their cars at this point.  Thirty minutes before start time I had an energy gel and got out and got my kit together and went over to the tent to see what was happening.  The main topic of conversation was what to wear, more akin to a girls night out than a fell race but this wasn’t about having matching accessories it was going to be a strategy for staying warmest for longest and having a plan B.  I decided that if I wore my waterproof jacket it would be soaked from the inside anyway by mile two and that as the temperature was ok for now I would run in my Under Armour compression top and my club vest and keep my waterproof for emergencies or if it got cold on the tops.  I knew I was going to be soaked to the skin within 5 minutes and that this would be the situation for the next how ever many hours.  Most runners had decided to wear their waterproofs from the off but I wanted to be a trend setter not a follower.

Race Briefing

Race Briefing

The Start

On our way into the clag

On our way into the clag

The race started and we headed off up into the clag (term for cloudy, foggy, horribleness with little visibility).  The clag was hovering low so we were soon down to about 20 metres visibility but we were still bunched together enough to do this first section without the need for map and compass.  I tried to take it slow, thinking about my breathing, if I was out of breath I was working too hard at this early stage and burning too much fuel.  Keep with the flow but don’t push it.  I was happy to get on the back of a bunch containing Leigh Hinchcliffe of Pudsey Pacers – my Ennderdale ‘getting lost’ partner (see report 11th June).  I knew we had both prepared navigationally better for this race but the clag was going to be another dimension.

The running over to CP1 at Illgill Head, high above Wast Water Englands deepest lake, was good. Grassy on good tracks before a very steep descent down to Greendale that let the quads know you were in the mountains.  A few positions swapped on the descent and across the valley bottom where it felt sheltered and warm, ‘a nice gentle trail race this’, I thought but I knew it wasn’t to last.  A quick water stop at CP2 manned by the legend Joss Naylor before we crossed to the bottom of Seatallon and began to climb.

Wasdale Me Running

Wasdale Me Running

Joss Naylor

Joss Naylor

Up Seatallon

Up Seatallon

Up through the bracken and across a stream, which was now a raging waterfall, then up, up and up.  I had ended up at the front of a group, too far behind the next runner to follow their route due to the clag but I was happy with my line and kept plodding away at it towards the unseen summit.  A group just behind me confirmed I was on the right track and I kept checking over my shoulder but by now I could sense we were near the top even though we couldn’t see it.  I ate some buttered malt loaf, my favourite energy food, while taking it relatively easy as I knew the next section would be hard over to CP3 at Pillar.

On The Tops

On reaching the summit of Seatallon the pace picked up and I was happy to see Nicky Spinks set off with purpose across the boggy tundra.  I had spoken with Nicky on our way to the starting field and asked about her Double Bob Graham feat and although I see her regularly at races I am always a little star struck.  (If you are reading this but not a fell runner then chances are you will not have heard of this remarkable lady so please Google her!).  If anyone was a good bet for knowing the way in what was now driving rain and no visibility then Nicky was it.

There is a train of thought, not unmerited, that says if you are not a confident navigator and do not have the skills to complete a race like this, then you should not be there.  I, for the most part, agree with this and at no point during this or any other race have I felt I could not navigate myself out of danger and back to civilisation even if this means being in the wrong place and leaving the race for safety’s sake.  However, I also feel that if you are cold, wet and becoming exhausted then there is safety in numbers and following someone you trust the navigation of is no bad thing and certainly not cheating.

So I was following Nicky Spinks.  I had my compass handy and I had some course notes with me that I had written and knew we should be heading in a North Easterly direction which I did keep checking.  The weather was getting worse, and keeping up with Nicky meant I was working hard.  The rain felt like thousands of tiny needles all across my exposed legs, arms and face, I knew my core temperature was still good and I kept fuelling to maintain that.  This was the area where Leigh and I had got lost at Ennerdale and I had been looking forward to surveying the area and assessing where we had gone wrong but I couldn’t, not with visibility down to under 20 metres.  As we neared Pillar, Nicky was pulling away and I knew I wasn’t going to stay with her but there was a good group behind me, even if I couldn’t see them, and the path from Pillar should be fairly straight forward.

“This is where the race starts proper” say the encouraging notes of the reverse on my map “You’ve just been playing at it up to now”.  Deep joy.

I knew this already but still it felt good to be at Pillar and on the opposite side of the loop to the start/finish so technically on the way back.  I had no illusions though, with Great Gable and Scafell Pike still to climb and descend the race was far from over.  CP3 – 2hr 45min

The weather was now in full on ‘trying to kill you’ mode.  The wind, although constant, also had blasts so strong they either blew you over or stopped you in your tracks unable to move forward.  Gravity was trying to help me down the greasy, sharp, rocky track with the enthusiasm of Hendrix my Springer Spaniel chasing a squirrel.  My foot/eye co-ordination was severely hampered by the continuous deluge of water being thrown into my face and my general levels of exhaustion along with the buffeting by the wind.  It was only a matter of time before I fell.  Gravity, wind and slippery wet rock all conspiring to up-end me.  I smacked my right leg hard into the rough rock and ended up flat on my front.  Ouch.  Get back on your feet.  Survey the damage.  Blood was running from a gash in my knee and my pain sensors were certainly aware of my right shin that had taken most of the impact.  Other than that fine.  Nothing broken.  Keep moving or you will get very cold very quickly.

I was running alone on this section for what seemed like an age although there must be runners behind me … providing I was still on course.  I stopped, checked my bearing and looked at the map.  My line was good.  I knew I needed to skirt around Kirk Fell on its left hand flank and I wasn’t going to get this wrong, not after Ennerdale.  As I began to question if I had gone too far or taken a detour, a small group of people were ahead and although this was not a check point they showed the correct path and offered up some jelly babies.  I was half way through eating an energy bar so didn’t accept the kind offer of the jelly babies but the confirmation I was going the right way was more motivational than a sweet at this point so thanks to whoever you were!

The path was quite clear and easy to follow.  Although I wasn’t running fast I was moving and being on the North Eastern side of the mountain meant a certain level of protection from the gales for a time.  The footpaths were streams, the streams that needed crossing were waterfalls and the rain was still falling.  Now remember at this point I am still in shorts and a t-shirt with my Idle AC club vest on top.  My body is splitting the energy I am feeding it into keeping me moving and keeping my core warm but it will always prioritise keeping the core warm, even at the expense of shutting down other functions – like the ability to move your arms and legs.  I was tired and needed to evaluate my situation and take some action to improve it or I would be in trouble.

I reached the end of the path and was going to have to stop and get my map out as I couldn’t see Great Gable.  What is a hulking Goliath of a mountain was somewhere directly in front of me but I didn’t know where.  Exposed again the wind was smashing into me and I stood behind a large rock for some shelter.  I took out my waterproof which was surprisingly still dry and battled with the wind to put it on.  I also put my hat on and my buff around my neck.  This made me instantly warmer and offered protection.  I took a bearing and realising I had continued my line too far I adjusted and found the base of something which must be Gable and began to climb.  After 2 minutes I saw another runner in the mist heading upwards too, then another and another.  These must have been the group just behind me that had now bypassed me but I was happy we were going the same way and I continued upwards, overtaking a couple of runners as we climbed.

Gable Detour

Gable Detour

CP4 – Great Gable 3:48:24

…and so I started following the runner ahead down Gable.  At this point the wind was at its worst and I wanted to lose altitude quickly to get some respite.  Last August on a lovely summers day I had completed Borrowdale fell race which did the reverse of this section and I knew there should be a decent and clear path down to Sty Head although the usual tourists were not going to be here today.  There was no path, just sharp slippery rock, and I took another slip and bashed my left thigh.  We hit patches of scree which were luxurious compared with the rock but I knew this was not the correct route and we agreed to skirt left while still descending.  I was feeling cross with myself for not deciding to make my own way down but we were here now and I was determined that if I kept veering left I would find the path.  After coming up against a bit of a cliff I went a bit higher to continue on but my companion decided to change direction and head lower and right.  I had conviction in my decision and continued and found the path within the next minute.  What happened to the other runner I do not know but everyone was accounted for at the end so he must have found his own way.  After all we are Fell Runners!

I was on the path and in no time at all I was at the bottom of Gable as most of the descent had been done ‘off piste’. At this point you can jog down from Sty Head to Wasdale Head and be back in warm clothes eating cake in a relatively short amount of time or you can continue and now climb the highest mountain in England!  I would be lying if I hadn’t hoped that this decision would not be mine to make and I would be told the race had been shortened and to get back for cake but this wasn’t the case.  So it was my choice to make and I was only going to do one thing.  I set off up towards CP5 at Esk Hause Shelter.

I caught another runner and chatted a little.  He was very experienced and had done the route several times before although I didn’t ask how many.  He was happy and calm and plodding along in a composed manner which gave me comfort.  I knew that the route off Scafell Pike was not the clearest and most obvious, coming down Lingmell Nose and the wrong route would mean missing CP7 and I was not going to let that happen.

The climb up to CP6 at the summit of Scafell Pike was fairly straight forward although there is a false summit and slight descent which I had forgotten about as while last here in Borrowdale I was enjoying the views at this point.  The calm runner reassured me and another “We’ve not missed the top, we’re just not there yet”.  I only had one plan now.  Stay with Mr Calm and get the right line off the top and into some warm clothes asap.

The summit check point came in 5:08:33 but there were still 2.5 miles to go before tea and cake could become a reality.  It dragged on and on and I wanted to stop but I was so close.  Mr Calm was getting further ahead, dancing away towards warmth but I kept him within sight and down we came, out of the cloud, the wind dropped and the temperature rose.

A couple of Todmorden runners passed me going for PB’s, running with renewed vigor and I didn’t have the fight left in me so I lost two places in the last one hundred yards but I was happy to relinquish them.

Results Board

Results Board

I crossed the line and gave in my last token and my race number so the organisers could ensure everyone is accounted for. There were lots of runners looking relaxed and changed.  Some of them I knew would have been back a long time but some of them I had thought I was close to or even ahead of.  How long had I lost on Gable?  I then saw the finishing list and my place of 39th (since amended to 38th).  It turns out lots of runners, 40 in total, had dropped out at various points so that accounted for many of these cheery looking clean people who were in stark contrast to the wet mess that I was as I crossed the line.

My Strava Link https://www.strava.com/activities/635628020

Gerry Springer Reflection Moment – So what have I learnt since last Saturday?

Only by testing ourselves do we truly find out what we are capable of.  There were times on the mountains that I felt slightly desperate and in some amount of danger but I had faith in my own ability to survive and endure what Mother Nature could throw at me.

It’s now 5 days since the race and I almost feel like I shouldn’t post this as the memories and feelings described have waned and I don’t want to sound like a whinger or a novice to my contemporaries and heroes.  I’ve read Nicky’s report of the race this week which is a lot less dramatic and basically says it was a bit wet and navigation could be tricky but this is why these people are my heroes.  If I put 99% of my Facebook friends in the place I was on Saturday I wonder how many of them, when faced with those conditions, would have got back alive?  And so I am proud of my achievement and the stories I can pass on to the kids and hopefully they can be proud of their dad too.

Graph

Beamsley Beacon – Idle AC Championship Race #5

Referendum and Race – Thursday 23rd June 2016

It’s 6.30pm in Addingham village just outside Ilkley in West Yorkshire.  It’s a pleasant, warm summers evening and the village is buzzing with people going to the polling station and fell runners congregating outside the Crown Inn where registration for the 5.5 mile Beamsley Beacon Fell Race is taking place.  A chance to catch up with running friends and aquaintances.  There are some fine athletes here as well as us ‘also rans’ with plenty of clubs represented – Ilkley Harriers, Pudsey & Bramley AC, Pudsey Pacers, Skipton, Keighley & Craven AC, Weatherby, Ripon, Harrogate and Leeds not to mention a strong crowd from hosts Wharfedale Harriers.  The Idle AC contingent number four – myself (Andew), Donna, Leon and Sean (I hate Fell Running) Duffey.

Crown Addingham

At around 7.20 we get underway.

A good half mile or more of road before we hit the small footpath and cross the river Wharfe to begin the up hill slog.  Leon was setting a strong pace just ahead of me and looked determined to run to the top as hard as he could with Graham Piling from P&B and a Weatherby runner tucked just behind him and me following.  I though he must stop soon as we went higher and higher, first across grassy fields, then a stretch of road before hitting the ‘fell’ proper.  I was ready to stop, put my hands on my thighs and stride to the top while catching my breath but those three kept going and so I too kept going with parched throat and sweat dropping from me.

We reached the top as a group of four and I wanted to stop, catch my breath and admire the view but there was no time for that, the others were already off down the hill at break neck speed and I dutifully followed.  The way back down is a ‘free for all’ pick your own route although there is a recognised, quickest, most direct route it is not obvious as Joe Baxter of P&B can attest to having being in 1st place at this point before going wrong, upsetting a farmer and finishing in 16th.  I passed Leon as I went for a more gung-ho, who dares wins attitude to descending although I was struggling now to keep up with Graham and Weatherby man who were flying.  I caught them as they stopped to question the correct route, which I confirmed and we were now well on our way back.  By now my quads were throbbing, my lungs at capacity and unable to find the oxygen by body craved – not much further, just keep going.

A stretch down a ginnel led us to run in single file between eight foot high nettles and foxgloves, like running down a narrow green tunnel before breaking out to cross the final fields and back over the bridge onto the road.  On the way out the stretch of road had flashed by in a few seconds but it now appeared to be never ending.  Thoughts were running through my head – just consolidate your place, don’t let the footsteps behind you catch up, they must feel as drained as you, nearly there!

And across the line!

Andrew – 23rd – 41:54

Leon -33rd – 42:51

Donna – 51st – 45:53 (3rd Lady Prize – Well done Donna although having been 1st Lady at the top we need to do some downhill sessions!)

 Sean – 101st – 53:23

Full Results Here

Next up for me?

Eldwick Gala – Saturday 25th June – 3 miles

Bradford Millenium Way Relay (Leg 2) – Sunday 26th June – 9 miles

Heptonstall Festival – Saturday 2nd July – 5.9 miles

Silsden Murder Mile – Thursday 7th July – 1 mile (uphill only race)

Wasdale Lakeland Classic – Saturday 9th July – 21 miles

Snowdon International Mountain Race – Saturday 16th July – 10 miles

 

Idle AC Championship Results after 5 races

Results #5

Next race is at Bingley Show on Saturday 23rd July.  It’s worth entering in advance as it’s cheaper.  On the day you need to pay into the show £10 and £3 for the race but in advance it’s £5 and £3.

 

Pudsey 10k – Idle AC Championship Race #4

Sunday 19th June saw four Idle AC runners taking part in the Pudsey 10k.  This is not a race for your 10k PB with much of the route off road and several energy sapping climbs (Naomi’s favourite).  It’s a popular race and there were 476 starters, positions below:

23rd – Andrew Britton in 42:08

22-06-2016 14-33-36

99th – Dave Lewis in 48:45

Dave Lewis

195 – Naomi Armitage in 54:12

Naomi

389 -Len Shepherd in 1:07:55

Len

There are now 6 races remaining so if you have yet to run one you can still qualify for prizes.  Nobody has managed 100% so that bonus has gone.  The next race is Thursday 23rd June – ‘Beamsley Beacon’ from Addingham.  A great little race (5.5 miles) and good warm up for Sundays Millennium Way Relay!

Results #4

Ennerdale Horseshoe Fell Race – Saturday 11th June 2016

The ‘Lakeland Classics’ are a series of long and super long fell races around the Lake District and most adopt the traditional ‘Horseshoe’ shape, in that from the start you climb up to the top of a mountain then run around the tops of various peaks in a horseshoe shape and descend at the end.  Sounds straight forward right?

The scence of the Ennerdale Fell Race

The scene of the Ennerdale Fell Race

Ennerdale Fell Race is the longest of the super long races at 23 miles, so it’s just shy of a marathon and with 7500ft of climbing it wasn’t going to be a gentle run out, nor was it going to be just one big climb at the start.  For anyone not used to running up hills or struggling to comprehend what 7500ft of ascent means then here’s a couple of pointers.

  • Firstly 7500ft ascent obviously means there is also 7500ft descent too which can be just as hard on the legs.
  • Secondly if you’ve ever walked up Snowdon from Pen Y Pass car park that is an 2378ft ascent, meaning it is over 3 of those or 5.5 times up Whernside from Ribblehead (Yorkshire’s highest mountain) at 1338ft ascent.
Ennerdale 4

Ennerdale Fell Race – The calm before the storm

An 11 a.m. race start means a 6 a.m. alarm clock to get myself fuelled and ready for a 3 hour drive up to Ennerdale.  Situated at the far Western side of the Lakes it is a bit of a journey to get there!  As the race clashed with the Welsh counter in the British Fell Running Championships many of the big names of fell running, most of them from The Lakes, had gone the opposite direction down the M6 to Pedol Cwm Pennant in Snowdonia.  These two factors, along with it being an absolute beast of a race, mean it isn’t everyone’s cup of tea and only 64 lined up, getting bitten by the lakeside midges when 11 a.m. came.

A gentle first mile around the lake on a decent track and nobody had been tempted to shoot off ahead so we all comfortably jogged along.  I considered getting to the front just to say that I had led a Lakeland Classic Fell Race but that would have been a bit far from reality, especially given what was to come.  Come it did, with the first climb up Great Bourne at 2020ft above sea level.  A steep energy-sapping scramble up mainly grassy terrain took us into the clouds and mist, and all of a sudden the prospect of a nice day out evaporated like the sweat on my face.  The mist cleared as we got above it and the first of the day’s 9 check points came into view.  All these races use an electronic dibbing system where you carry a little ‘key’ that you insert into a box at each check point.  This records your time and also ensures all runners are accounted for.  The man, or rather legend, with the dibbing box was none other than Joss Naylor (If you don’t know ‘Iron Joss Naylor’ then do yourself a favour and Google him!).  After feeling a little in awe and saying it was an honour to meet him he told me to have a good run and I continued on my way. [CP1 – 43:53]

Ennerdale Fell Race - My Strava map of the route

Ennerdale Fell Race – My Strava map of the route

During the first climb I had been passed by two Pudsey Pacer lads (Zagi and Leigh) who were not unknown to me but I’d only actually met them that morning before the start.  I could see them up ahead and I wanted to stay within a minute or two of their yellow vests and hopefully catch them back up.  We traversed Starling Dodd and headed up Red Pike (There’s 2 Red Pikes in the Lakes and both feature in this race report… although one shouldn’t have!) and I started to gain some ground on them, feeling good.

[CP2 1:12:23] 2473ft above sea level (ASL). I passed Zagi and ran along with Leigh for a bit having our first navigation problems with the line around High Stile but got back on course and I was now following a couple of Bowland Fellrunners.  Some great running, especially down the steep scree slopes where the hikers we were passing just looked bemused at these middle aged men and ladies hurtling down a mountain past them.

[CP3 – 2:01:05] Black Beck Tarn.  We’d dropped down to 1578ft so I knew there was lots more climbing ahead.  This started with Green Gable at 2627ft ASL where check point 4 was, and I was thankful on this occasion that we weren’t going up Great Gable (we’ll save that for Wasdale and Borrowdale later this year).

[CP4 – 2:32:01].  This is the furthest point you get from the start but this isn’t a road race, there is no option to throw in the towel and jump on a bus back to race HQ.  Quit now and you’ve still got to haul your ass back to the start so time to dig in, eat some more food and push on.

The climb up Kirk Fell (2632ft ASL) is steep and rocky and at the summit is check point 5 [CP5 – 3:00:00] where we turn right and descend rapidly to Black Sail Pass and begin the ascent of Pillar.  At 2818ft ASL Pillar is the highest point in this race and once the summit is reached it is a relatively steady and mainly downhill run for the final 6 miles or so.  So – get to the top of this around the 3:45:00 mark, and an hour or just over to get back for a 5 hour finish.  Simple.

This is where things went wrong.  The climb up Pillar itself was straight forward.  Difficult? Yes.  Never ending? Yes.  Cramp in both thighs with each step upwards? Yes.  Massive relief when we reached the top? Yes.  Up here was the race organiser who gave us some water and told us (myself and Leigh) that we were in the top 30 and doing well.  Hurray. [CP6 – 3:42:44]

Now we both had a ‘Harvey Map’ of the route with it’s valuable notes on.  Notes like – ‘Pillar to Haycock, Checkpoint 7, likewise is obvious (referring to the tourist path up Pillar) but care must be taken whilst traversing Scoat Fell, to the south, not to end up on Red Pike.  A wall is a good handrail’.  Good advice that we failed to take as we took the wrong path and trundled off to Red Pike (this being the second Red Pike as mentioned earlier).  I wasn’t sure we were on the right path but then suddenly up ahead were 3 runners spaced out along the trail and going the direction we were heading.  It’s easy to say “stop and get out the compass” and “don’t assume the others are in your race” but by now your body is in agony and your mind is just on a basic survival mode to get you back to your car and so you follow.  You see a tarn to the right which rings alarm bells as that doesn’t fit with what you’re expecting to see, but still you follow.  Down below looks a bit like Wasdale really, not where you should be going, but still you follow.  So I caught up with the lady ahead and as I had suspected, but didn’t want to believe, she had no race number on her top.  We had a little chat while she told us just how far off course we were and that she had seen some of our fellow racers going the other way.  Thank you – whoever you are!

Demoralised as well as outright knackered we looked at our maps and tried to figure out what to do.  Firstly we needed to get back to the top of what was now obviously Red Pike, in order to get a bearing and make a plan.  The plan we had was to head north-west skirting the edge of the tarn we had seen, and then the path and the wall that we should be following, would be just behind the crag we could see.  There was nothing even resembling a path and the going was boggy, rocky and even the sheep looked puzzled as we trudged across to the crag, stopping at the tarn to fill our now empty water bottles.  At the crag the view I expected, was to look down into Ennerdale valley, see a prominent wall, a bunch of fell runners running along and a herd of unicorns skipping across the hillside.  Alas it was not to be.  A bleak empty valley with no Ennerdale Water 🙁

Ennerdale Correct Route

As mentioned before, there is no “get out” at this point.  No “sit down and wait to be rescued”.  You have to dig deep, search your soul and soldier on.  As if in a dark comedy about two middle aged Yorkshiremen in a spot of bother on a bleak hill, the heavens opened and the clag came down.  Cags donned, we skirted round an annoyingly placed mountain which happened to be the one we should have been on top of!  It’s while desperate, tired and hungry that you really appreciate not being on your own, so I’m glad Leigh was at least suffering with me.  Fell running is all about ups and downs, mainly physically but also metaphorically, and things can change quickly.  The sight of the “wall” that we should have seen over an hour earlier lifts the spirits, especially as there are people running by it, people actually in our race!  We join their line and ask where check point 7 is, which we find out is back up the mountain we’ve skirted around.  We decide we will still dib in and head up to the summit passing, runners coming the other way. [CP7 – 5:25:56].  What should have been a 30 minute check point has taken 1:43:12.

Now on the right path and having not missed any check points we set off towards the finish with a spring in our cramping step – although we were now at the back of the field and any plans of getting a good time were gone – but the experience is priceless.  Iron Crag was check point 8 and it came and went without incident, with lots of grassy downhill running which should be a joy, but was still tough given my legs were trashed by this point!  [CP 8 – 5:53:01].

More downhill, although I was flagging quickly.  I hadn’t eaten anything for a while as I thought I’d have enough in the tank to see me to the finish but I was now running on empty and feeling dizzy.  I’d edged a way in front of Leigh but he was now catching me up again which was fine as any idea of this still being a “race” was long gone and I was hoping he had some warm lake water left!  I got down to the plantation I’d been looking at for a while and started on the last climb up Crag Fell, a nasty little sting in the Ennerdale tail.  I stopped for a moment and ate about 10 jelly babies hoping these mighty little jelly beings would see me the last couple of miles.  Leigh caught, and then stayed with, me as I think he could see I was struggling.  I just needed the sugar to kick in and I’d be okay, but I could just as easily have curled up and drifted into a sleep from which I might never have woken.  “Soldier on”, “keep going”, you told Mrs Britton you’d be setting off home around 4 p.m. and it must be almost half five already!  Get your ass in gear up this hill, down the other side, and it will all be over.  [CP 9 – 6:23:03].  I think they were as happy to see us as we were them, the two blokes on top of Crag Fell who, by now, must have been stood up there over three hours already and there were still at least a few more to come.  “Ten minutes and you’re back” they said.  They lied.  It was all downhill through a forest and eventually to the edge of Ennerdale Water.  These last beautiful yards should be joyous, but they were painful and seemingly endless, like someone was purposely extending my agony by having the finish as far away as possible.  Of course that was not the actual truth.

Through the finish and the last dibber.  No sprint from Leigh.  I think he let me cross first through pity, but it had truly been a team performance today and poor Zagi had been back ages and couldn’t get in Leigh’s car to change. [Finish 6:43:19].

Total distance run 25.8 miles with 7971ft of ascent.  An unplanned extra 3 miles and almost 500ft ascent.

Ennerdale Profile

https://www.strava.com/activities/606266725

In retrospect – Another amazing day in The Lakes.  The people it takes to put on a race like this and stand at the top of many inhospitable mountains for hours on end, purely so we can do the race, is very much appreciated.  There’s no medal, no technical t-shirt, no certificate and no need.  Nobody running this race wanted any of that.  For them it was a battle, for some a battle to win (1st place male Ben Abdelnoor – 4:03:27 and 1st place female Judith Jepson (legend) – 4:58:54 a and 16th overall).  For most of us it was a battle just to complete it.

You can learn a lot about yourself when tired, hungry, exhausted and clinging to the side of some godforsaken mountain with horizontal rain pummelling your face and zero visibility, but then the clag can lift, the sun can shine and the view makes you happy to be right here, right now and doing what you love.

Andrew Britton – 13th June 2016