Feeling that I had trained well in the lead up to the race, I thought that I could probably go with the leaders for the first few hours then see how it went. If I felt good after Honister I would try and push on to gain a gap knowing that the run in to the finish suited me. That was the plan anyway. From the very first step onto the climb up Helvellyn this plan failed in almost every way.
The climb went well and the gap increased. Every now and then I looked back to check on the gap. By about half way up I figured it to be about 4 to 5 minutes. So I decided to try and at least maintain that so that on the decsent of Helellyn I wouldn't be followed. This was ainly because I knew the optimal line.
This plan worked and I descended Helvellyn alone. Taking a leek part way down I looked up and could see no one. It was now that I realised that I would probably be alone for most of the race. Well certainly for the Short course race, but along the road going to the first CP at Steel End Farm, I started to catch the back markers of the long course. This would continue to provide targets to aim at until the descent off Scafell Pike.
A quick stop at the CP, made even hastier by the swarming evil midges, and I pressed on. Up the never easy Wythburn valley, as in the OCT race. But unlike that, we had to summit High Raise instead of contouring around the back of it. I was now catching many of the Long course competitors, and to my surprise lots of them chose to go over High Raise even though they didn't have to. Then I headed for Bow fell. Although I haven't done this section before I got the line quite well. I made a good ascent of Bowfell who's summit was now in the clouds, unfortunately I had to have a "comfort break" half way up. Not ideal, but needs must I suppose. Some light showers mixed with the low clouds made the rocks greasy. This section from Bowfell to Great Gable is very rocky, so I just did my best and got on with it. It was much trickier than the recce I had done of this section in perfect weather 2 weeks earlier.
I felt that I was making good progress but Great End was tricky. The top section is flat and featureless and was shrouded in thick cloud. I eventually found the line off. For the same reason Ill crag and Broad Crag were a bit tricky too. Once I turned off Sca Fell Pike I knew there would be no more "targets" as the long course goes down to Wasdale. I descended down the Corridor route to Sty Head. It was a lonely task on difficult ground, I had to keep reminding myself that I was in a race. I kept looking back as I had no clue how far behind 2nd place was, and now the only runners would be in my race. I didn't see anyone at any point, even whilst ascending into the clouds on Great Gable.
I pretty much gave up on looking behind now and just got on with it. As I enter the clouds near the top of Great Gable, for the first time I began to struggle a bit. I just dug in and kept a decent pace going. I got the line off Great Gable wrong as it was covered in thick cloud. I didn't want to make a really bad mistake, so I didn't find the optimal line. But at least I only went on the slower rock steps towards Green Gable.
I chose the Borrowdale race route, around Green Gable and Brandreth to the right, and then Grey Knotts to the left. I ran into Honister CP expecting to find out how much of a gap I had, but the marshals couldn't tell me. So I pressed on up Dale Head. The sun came out and it started to feel warm. I climbed at a grinding pace. Then began the descent, after answering the marshals as to what I thought to be the best route. I was soon off the steep zig zags and crossing the river at the bottom. For the first time I took my Gillet and arm warmers off.
I then ran the trail towards the Newlands valley road. I passed a lady with a push chair and kids, she said "well done" and just before I was out of ear shot "2nd". 2nd? Had I been passed on Bowfell whilst comfort breaking? Unlikely. Was it a runner, not in the race? I really couldn't get my head around that statement. It disturbed me for a while. I thought that this was going to be my first time to cross the line 1st (I crossed the line 3rd in a race, but was actually 1st). Had I somehow unknowingly blown it? A few hundred meters on and a runner approached me saying well done. He joined me and informed me that I was indeed in 1st, and that the other guy was Andy Berry storming the Long course. Few.
Relieved by news, I ran well down the road to the last CP at Nicol End Marriner on the shores of Derwent water. I asked them about the gap, I sort of knew the response I would get, and they didn't disappoint. They agreed with me when I suggested I should just get on with it. Its only 1.5 miles from here. So I ran it at a good steady pace, my legs now feeling a bit tired. My only nav error was to go left into the car park for the football club and then have to climb the fence, before running through the finish line. I then knocked on the door and dibbed for the last time. I think I surprised them.
I needn't have worried about getting caught, by Dunmail Raise I had a 15 minute lead, and at Sca Fell Pike I had a 40 minute lead, and by the finish I was nearly an hour ahead of 2nd place.
I had the luxury of the first food, and first use of the showers. It felt really good to have finally cross a finish line 1st. Unfortunately I don't have a trophy to put on the mantel piece, but I did get an entry to any of their races until the end of 2018. I'm thinking Ring of Steall or Ben Nevis Ultra, 2018.