The Grand Tour of Skiddaw 29th August

44 miles  (48.4 for me)
7,180 feet

I had never done this race before, so a few weeks earlier I had a look at some of the route.  The route is essentially an 8.5 mile out and back to a long, 27 ish mile, circuit. The circuit includes a long climb up and over Skiddaw. Starting and finishing at Dalston School it forms a lollipop shape (Strava map). I only reconnoitred the circuit, and unfortunately I made an error after Peter house Farm during that recce. So felt that I had learned little about that area of the course. This wasn't a good omen. I was also going to trust that my memory of that circuit, and my ability to reverse the unrecced out bit, would get me home when the field was more strung out.

Race day was bright enough if a little chilly. But nice enough running conditions. After a nervy, short warm up we were off out of the school grounds and heading for the first CP at Caldbeck. This being at the end of the out and back, is also the last CP before the run to the finish. As we ran out of the 
school and down the by the river Liza, I stook to my strategy of setting off nice and steady. The other part to my plan was to follow runners that looked like the knew the way until the part I had recced. This worked out ok there was a good few 
of us setting off at a fairly fast pace following the river through the flat, then rolling farm fields. I began to close and pass a few of the ones that set off faster as they eased back a little. I kept my pace steady and by the first CP, and after a few doubts over the correct way, I was with a group of about 5 others. All men as i had now passed the 2 leading woman. A quick stop and we all set off together on the gradual then fairly steep climb to high pike. We all ran together for a mile or so then separated out. As the ground got steeper i pulled away from them to get a view of Micheal Irving about 300 meters ahead and Ken Sutor a further 400 meters ahead of Michael. I gradually closed up on Michael on the climb and subsequent short descent over the far side of High Pike. On the slightly undulating run  towards Skiddaw house i finally caught up with him. He was running at a good pace, so we ran together chatting for a while. To my surprise Ken was the leader of the race. Whilst running in the group earlier, i hadn't much idea of where the leaders were, and thought that there may have been 1 maybe 2 in front of Ken. Michael and being in 2nd and 3rd places was a boost to know.
We arrived at the next CP at Latrigg car park together, I made a quicker stop and just decided to get on with the biggest climb of the race up to the summit of Skiddaw. I left Michael and decided being in 2nd felt good so pushed on well up Skiddaw, to reach a very cold windy summit and ring the bell at the top. The marshals just nodded at me from a cairn such was the icy feeling of the wind. As i descended i got the feeling that i was building a handy gap and feeling strong. I was a bit worried about route finding as i was now totally running on my own. I knew Ken was a strong runner who was at least 20 minutes ahead so I now knew that if i was going to finish 2nd i was going to run the rest of the race alone.

I really enjoyed running down off Skiddaw on my own but not long after reaching the valley floor I Made a small mistake. Whilst going through Peter House Farm after about 30 miles. I carried straight on and meandered through a wood near a stream, rather than turning right through a field. I Maybe lost about 5 minutes. Then after the last CP I set off out of the CP and turned left instead of right. I didn't twig until I saw a sign for Keswick. Maybe an extra 2 miles distance and 18 minutes extra in time. I Retraced my route back to the CP to find out weather anyone else had gone through. The CP Marshals clapped as I arrived for the 2nd time (well 3rd but you know what i mean) at Caldbeck. Embarrassed I informed them that it was me again, and I was just checking if anyone had been through. I also checked with them as to where I should have gone. I was informed that just Ken Sutor and I had gone through, twice. So I cracked on, and tired in the final few miles. The guy in 3rd , Michael Irving, caught me, but after hearing my sob story he gracefully gave me 2nd. I think I may have got him in a sprint. But it was a nice gesture, to help appease my annoyance. Thanks to him, top guy. I suppose I have to be happy with 2nd whatever. Even without my errors I wouldn't have got near Ken Sutor. A deserved winner.

At the prospect of getting to meet the living legend that is Billy Bland, I decided to travel home then back the next day for the prize giving. It was great to get to chat to him about his fantastic fell running achievemens. He seemed fairly modest about his amazing BG record. Saying that it about the best he could do, hinting at the fact that he thinks it is beatable. It was a great way to end a great race. I'll be back next year, to hopefully go the right way and beat that time.

I finished 2nd out of 82 in 8 hrs 15.11. Ken Sutor won in 7 hrs 17.49.

Me, Ken Sutor, Billy Bland and 3rd placed Michael Irving.

The Prudent Riverside Half Marathon : 16th August

13.1 miles

Set off fast, got slower. knew a PB was out of the question. Walked a bit 12 miles in, struggled to the finish in 1 hr 24.04 in 8th place out of 124. Tom Charles won in 1 hr 10. 04.

PBs and placements don't really bother me too much, although it is nice to feel I've done well. What is important to me is to feel that I've run well and done my best. Unfortunately this was one of the races where I just unraveled and felt I had had a poor run.  Maybe too many races too close together.