The Old Counties Tops race with Bill : 20th May

35 miles
10,200 feet

It rained hard just as we registered. This was a bad omen for the race. But I was optimistic that this years race would be less wet and cold than last years. How misplaced was my optimism? Massively.

A few showers weren't a problem as we started on the "warm up" over and through Grassmere. As usual at this point Bill and I were moving smoothly and swiftly. As we approached the tough climb up the side of Dollywagon I felt that we were maybe a little too swift. Running all the way up to the steep climb. I checked that Bill was ok and not pushing it, he affirmed all was good. Helvellyn was ticked off in about our normal time, and the weather was cool but ok.

Wythburn was even feeling a bit warm. So I took my Gillet off. By the top of Green up edge it almost felt like a replay of last year. The clouds amassed it started raining and the wind picked up. However this time it was cold rain with some sleet and hail in it. By the time we closed in on Angle Tarn, the now incessant rain, was getting to me. I felt very cold and thoughts of quitting crept in. I comforted myself in that, as we climbed to Esk Hause the wind would be at our backs.

Somehow we struggled to the Scafell Pike summit, and decided on the quick route down. Unfortunately Bill started with cramp whilst still high up, and in the cold wind and rain. My hands now painfully numb and almost useless, I said to Bill that unless things improve in the valley i'll have to quit. He sort of agreed as he too was cold.

After struggling up the steep slopes of Sca Fell Pike we dropped out of the cloud, and gradually the valley lit up with sun shine. Like a lizard warming in the sun, I could feel energy and enthusaiasm gradually return along with the use of my hands. We both decided to go for the finishers T-shirt.

Although the out and back to the Old Man of Coniston was cool with a fresh wind, it still felt quite mild by comparison to the earlier mailstrom. We made good time over the last section and finished in our slowest time of 10 hours 13 mins. But finishing was the main thing. I really enjoyed the race, maybe even more for the on the edge feel of it.
After warming up and drying out, on the ascent to the Old Man.

Closing in on the Old Man

Very happy to finish.

Howgills Trail13 race : 13th May

3,200 feet
13.4 miles

Last year I did the 26 mile version of this race. After being a bit frustrated by the amount of gates to open, and my poor finish, I decided to have a go at the half marathon race this time. The courses share the same start and finish with the Trail 13 effectively short cutting the 26 mile race by cutting down off the Calf via Cautley spout, to pick the route back up and circle back to the start finish area.

I had travelled up with my good friend Mark, we both watched the Trail 26 start. Charlie Sharp led out of the field closely followed by the first lady. I said to Mark that I doubted she would end up in 2nd overall. Well Charlie (3.37.16)  held on to a comfortable win, and Helen Bonsor emphatically proved me wrong, by comfortably holding 2nd position overall (3:49:24). That had to be the run of the day.
The Trail 26 start. Charlie Sharp, and Helen Bonsor leading it out.

So 20 minutes later, at 10 am. We were lined up ready for the 13 mile race. The MC pointing at 2 young looking lads and proclaiming "don't try and keep up with those". I later found out that one of them (Jonathan Cox) had won the race for the last 2 years.

Most of the 3,200 feet of climbing and descending is in the first half of the race. Then its an undulating trail run with a few gates to open. This year the route near the end was changed to bring the course back to the fell side, rather than out away form the fells to follow the river Rawthey. This included a bit of a sting in the tail in the form of an ever steepening climb. I hadn't recced that part of the course so it was to be a surprise.

Soon enough we were on our way out of the field and up the steep road.  Jonathan, and Richard Smith  (sponsored athlete) led followed by the other young lad "not to try to keep up with" (Jamie Ankle). So I tried to keep in touch with Jamie as we started climbing up Winder. He maybe had a 50 meter gap at first. But as the climb got steeper near the top I had closed him down and then overtook him. The lead 2 were now fairly distant, maybe 300 meters ahead. When I passed Jamie I thought that we would run together, but we never ran more than a stride together.

Without pushing too hard I pressed on, and by the climb around Arant haw I and the lead 2 caught the back end of the Trail 26. This made it difficult to see where I was in the field. So I decided that it was very likely that 3rd would be the best I could do today. Even the encouragement of some of the Trail 26 guys wasn't likely to improve that. But I decided to reassess when the routes split, and could see only our race. On the last part of the big climbs up the Calf, a spectator warned me that some were catching (or at least I think thats what he said). I did wonder how he could tell. But maybe the differential in pace gave it away to a stationary observer.

As the routes split I couldn't see the first 2. I descended for 200 meters then allowed myself a look back. I figured that I had a 90 second gap to 4th. I took it easy-ish on the steep descent down Cautley. Just before the (only) CP there is a 500 meter out and back to it. just as I started this, on the now rolling trails, Jonathan went the other way with Richard a minute or so behind. Looking at their cadence and feeling a bit of leg fatigue. It confirmed that they were gone.

7 miles in, getting back to tempo paced running 

I had a quick drink and a Gel at the CP.  On the way out I saw Jamie going the other way, maybe 2 minutes behind. I saw another 3 runners before I started the last 6 miles. The Gel worked and I ran well to the last (sting in the tail) climb. It was a tough climb, but I had a good view of the lead 2 at the top as I started it (definitely gone) and as I gasped my way to the top, I looked back to see the next 2 starting it. I felt pretty confident of 3rd now. Figuring I had a 4 to 5 minute gap. Then I started a bit of a descent, and missed a marker and descended about 200 feet lower than the wall that I should have followed. Luckily I knew the route followed a wall to the finish reasonably high up the fell. So I worked my way back by contouring the heavy going farm fields. I very carefully scaled a high drystone wall and was back on course. I figure that I lost 3 to 4 minutes.

The black circle (black line) is me rejoining the route, Just as 4th and 5th go straight down to the road! and Jonathan is about to win.

After the race I discovered that the 4th guy made the same mistake, followed by Jamie, but went all the way down to the road before realising and returning to the route. They eventually finished 15th and 16th (2.21.39), gutted for them.

Back on course I was fairly sure that they wouldn't have passed me. But still had a niggling doubt. On the last bit of fell before entering the same bit of road we ran up, I asked the Marshall's and they confirmed 3rd.  I needn't have worried as the now 4th place guy (Mark Tiptrot) finished over 8 minutes later (2.08.32).

As I ran the last bit of the road, I felt a tinge of disappointment that I was going to just miss sub 2 hours. But I was happy with 3rd overall out of 163. I felt that without the mistake my time would have been more like 1.56 instead of my finish time of 2.00.48.

The Route change makes this a much better course. I really enjoyed it. Jonathan Cox won for the 3rd time in a row in 1.49.33, and Richard Smith was 2nd in 1.52.19.

Wray Caton Moor fell Race : 1st May

6.8 miles
1,100 feet

Unfortunately, for optimum performance and no excuses, I only discovered that this race was on the night before. At this point i'd already had a few beers, it was late (or early in the morning to be exact)  and i'd had a fairly tough tempo run early in the morning, followed by a hard day at work. See what I mean the excuses are lined up now.

I work weekends so I don't get to do as many races as I would like these days. So when I discovered this local race on Bank holiday Monday, it was too good an opportunity to miss.

So feeling a bit groggy and tired I made my way to the Scarecrow festival in Wray village, which the race is part of.  Soon enough we were lined up in the centre of the village ready for the steep climb up the road. I felt I started ok. Although I was further back in the field than last year. The fell was dry and hard mostly but still patches of softer ground and bog. It was similar ground conditions to last year and I watched fellow Bowland Runner Mark Chippendale lead the race to the summit maybe 2 minutes and 15 places ahead. The descent was tougher than last year due to a stiff headwind for most of it. I never really got up to full speed on the descent, as I was still catching my breath from the ascent, and never really got on top of it.

I think overall the course was a bit tougher this year, mainly due to the headwind.  So I was pleased enough with a slightly slower time of 49.23 and 14th out of 106. Mark had a great run and held on to win in 45.36. His first win after 20 years of doing the race! Brilliant.