This is the second classic horseshoe fell race that I have done in consecutive years with the intrepid Gary Gunner, Tom Davies and Gary Pearson. Well worth the trip to the Lake District, although this year the other lads didn’t have to put up with the stress of me driving past 2 motorway junctions with the race about to start, as I came down from Scotland after a bit of munro bagging.
My arrival from the north meant that I missed out on the traditional fell runners preparation the night before…I think only a few pints were consumed but my time on race day was obviously below par by missing out on this essential training.
The weather was typically Lakes weather…threatening to clear up in the lower Beatrix Potter, picturesque landscape but looking dubious on top. That’s why I now run the hills..who wants to walk in the mizzle extending the misery when you could have finished hours ago with tea and cake?
The warm up involved walking 15 minutes to registration at the beautiful Rydal Hall..and back to the car park as we were early..and back again. As usual, a well run fell event, with great camaraderie.
I placed myself somewhere to the back of the pack. I regret this as despite a munro for each of the previous 2 days, I was feeling good. I struggled to get past people..I had energy, they got in my way. The problem is that I am a slow burner..too far up the pack, I start too fast. Personally, I believe this is not a problem specific to me…I pass people heaving and sputtering after 3 minutes. They feel it gains an advantage (only if there is a tricky stile to negotiate that we will backlog on). All I feel is they started too fast (delusions of grandeur) and are now in my way!!! (moan..gripe).
Anyway, the horseshoe is a classic also known to walkers. A long drawn out ascent to Great Rigg and Fairfield then a retreat down off a long craggy Dove Crag and High Pike/several other Wainwrights. A smooth runnable up on grass and heather was confounded by a foggy summit and navigational issues over slippy rocks on the way down. Nobody wanted to get out their compass and map thus losing time so everybody tried hard to stick on the heels of another in the mire. The rocks were slippy. We had to catch a wall on the right on the way down as a handrail but if you got too close, you discovered it was often perched on slippy slabs of rock. Fell running is all about split second decisions about route choice that can add minutes to your time.
The final mile in the valley was hard on the legs after all that down hill as it was on a stony track.
Gary P was in at around 1 hr 50 I was about 5 minutes later (in top half of field so happy after my munros) followed by Gary G and Tom.
Distance 9 miles officially but Tom’s technology put it nearer 10. Anyway it’s a fell race, measured really more accurately by terrain and height gain (914 m ie 3000 feet).
Hats off to these guys, they never stop racing, how they recover is beyond me but I am beginning to learn a little about what keeps them going..use it or lose it is one phrase that comes to mind. I believe Gary P did well in the Hereford Half very next day, but again, Gary and Tom have raced on consecutive days too. It’s all about just going with the flow as much as a training regime gained off the internet.
Meanwhile, come and join us in the Coniston Old Man Fell Race next year..you know you want to. Make a holiday of it, bag some Wainwrights/Fell Tops whilst the family visits some tourist sites. Fell runners don’t wear the Cumberland Wrestling garb anymore so no need to be embarrassed.
As for Munroes and Wainwrights..ask away or resort to google if you don’t know but be careful..the bug may bite.