Originally I wasn't going to be running this. Generally speaking each person in the club apparently gets "1 relay run a year", though I wasn't aware of this. However, due to various people deciding to run, then not run, and teams being shuffled and reshuffled (as is always the case to the frustation and stress levels of those organising the teams) I ended up being partnered with Ben Tetler on Leg 2.
Ben is a faster runner than me- kind of in the same league as how Chris is a faster runner than me, so I was under no illusions that this was going to be a fairly challenging day out. None the less, it was most likely to be a fun day out as well. It was useful to be on Leg2 as I had to leave early to get back for an MRT exercise- so that fell into place nicely.
The Relays were held by Keswick this year, and so started in Braithwate, which brought back memories of a hiking holiday I went on with Rob back in oooh- 2006 which is mainly remembered for waking up every morning with ice on the inside of the tent, seeing footprints in the snow of fellrunning shoes and thinking "wow- imagine living somewhere that you own a pair of shoes with spikes in *specifically* for days like this, and, on the last day, walking down off Grisedale Pike, being overtaken by a fellrunner and thinking "that's amazing. I wish I could do that- no chance living in London".
So here we are. Vet40 team for Glossopdale. A pretty crisp day, but with a fair amount of rolling clag across the tops. Neither Ben nor I had had any time to get up to recce the leg, so we were just going to go with the safest lines, which were the ones on the map. Leg 2 is about 12.5k with 1000m of ascent (unless you recce it, take some sneaky lines, and then its only about 950). Jamie Helmer was on the first leg and set off circumspectly, gaining places over the course as other, more enthusiastic starters began to regret their decision to go out hard. Ben and I got through kit check and warmed up- reccying the first 300m of the course (oh how detailed), and went back to the start pen waiting for Jamie to come in.
The general plan for the day was for me to go as fast as I could, and for Ben to be nice to me and not blast off up the hills at a pace I couldn't follow. Now- if you read the last blog about the HBMR relays, you'll know that I ended up with a bit of achilles tendonopathy after that, so for the last 3 weeks I've been concentrating on rehab and very much *not* running, in the hope that it would be ok for today. It had been getting better and better, but I figured that it might hurt today, but as I don't really have any more races after this, it didn't matter too much if it flared. So this could be interesting.
We saw Jamie on the last little slog up the hill to the final downhill blast and got ready in the start pen along with a number of other teams, and once tagged, we were off. The initial climb wasn't too bad- and was generally fairly runnable. Ahead of us we could see (amongst many others) the Dark Peak V50's and the Pennine V40s, both of whome seemed to be making pretty decent headway. Dark Peak were closer and we overhauled them just as we got to Barrow Gill, but Pennine remained stubbornly ahead.
I was trying not to go too deep too soon, especially as I saw Outerside, the first actual peak, and was thinking- "well, thats maybe a quarter of the way in... don't go too silly- hold something back for the harder climbs". The initial running was very much Mudclaw territory. Plenty of sloppy bog and mud to sink the studs into, and you could see the people that weren't wearing shoes with that amount of grip as we passed team after team. However, on the climb up to Outerside, the bog gave way to stone where anyone with any kind of inov8 was immediately swearing at the ridiculous lack of anything resembling friction under their feet. This was going to be an interesting leg. Maybe I should have been wearing a mudclaw on one foot and a VJ on the other?
We bust up Outerside as fast as I was able, mainly trying to keep to the vegetation parts of the climb, avoiding people sliding across slippy wet rock, and managed to catch and pass Pennine V40's just prior to the top. Although the tops were still clagged in, I looked down and across from the Checkpoint and thought "this is pretty much the Teenager with Altitude line- I know this"- and off we clattered down towards Birkwith Beck overtaking another team, and seeing several others in our sights, who we caught up with, and then overtook along the rough traverse and down the steep descent to the main path up to Coledale hause.
|Yes- me on a descent- but not the one down to the beck (there was no-one there taking photos)|
I'm not going to lie- this was not a high point. Ben seemed very in his element driving hard up the moor across the bends of the path- while I chugged a gel and held on for dear life. Taking the main path would have been less efficient, and at this stage I would have been going at the same speed over a zigzag terrain as direct up a moor, so in fact we gained on the teams in front. Ben had his eyes on the Bingley Vet team- the only way we could pass them was if they slowed down- I wasn't about to get any faster!
As we climbed to the Checkpoint at Coledale Hause I looked across and 99% of the teams ahead of us were climbing the main scramble up Eel Crag. There was a sole Keswick team traversing across the bottom of the crag- which looked like a decent line, but one that you'd only really want to take if you'd previously reccyed it (which, presumably being the host team, they had). It would have been great to take a sneaky line there, but considering the clag was still a bit down, and this was around an area characterised by places such as "Eel Crag", "Scott Crag" and "Scar Crag", it didn't seem like a good idea to start going off piste.
Dibbed at the Hause, and then a scramble up Eel crag. Again, anyone in inov8s was cursing the lack of any kind of grip on stone. If you put your foot on any kind of rock you could guarantee that you'd slip. It was genuinely ridiculous. I might have slightly rose tinted specs on here, but about 10 years ago you could get a pair of shoes that gripped on mud AND rock, these days, it seems like that ability has been lost- which is really weird. Anyhow, a slog to the top of Eel crag, and by now, my legs and lungs are really starting to feel it. A Keswick team (not the one we'd seen earlier) came past us, and a Helm Hill team that we had just overtaken, and so at least we had someone to follow a little way to the top of Eel Crag in the mist.
Then came a fairly technical descent down and across to the ascent to Sail. Ben was wearing Walshes, and so had a totally different grip to mine. Stepping where he stepped didn't necessarily mean I was going to get the same stability as him, so it was quite interesting to notice how we descended differently according to what gripped and what didn't.
Up to Sail- a dib, and then down to Sail pass in the cloud that slowly cleared as we descended. My legs were shot, and this was amply demonstrated by Ben quite happily skipping down the hill where I would have normally followed without a second thought. Having been on the edge for 40?50? mins or so, I just couldn't keep the power down, so got to the bottom about 10 seconds after him. On the climb to Scar crags the Keswick and Helm hill teams slowed a little, and we passed them both at the top and had a beautiful ridge run down- looking ahead to the next gaggle of teams who were just dropping down off Causey Pike- a fair distance ahead. Gotta keep running....
Dib at the path junction and a hard left down what would be, in a lesser state of fatigue and cardiovascular stress, a beautiful descent. Still, despite my legs not working quite as well as they should, we were making time on the teams ahead. Over Stonycroft Gill and onto the main path where I got a little respite before heading to Barrow Door where, just before the final climb, I turned my right ankle. Dammit. Not something I wanted to do right now. It wasn't desperate, but it still hurt a fair amount.
The final climb to Barrow *should* have been utterly runnable, but along with that recently twisted ankle, there were times where I was having to power walk- slightly annoying as Ben could certainly have gone faster. Final dib at the top of Barrow, and the final descent. Again one made for Mudclaws. A couple of teams were ahead of us, and I was confident we would catch them before the end. Ben, who was running at seemingly a lower level of intensity than me was still able to barrel down hills at a speed that I should have been able to keep up with, but I was losing ground due to fatigue and the ankle.
|The final sprint down to the finish|
We passed a team at the bottom of the hill- just as we climbed to the final descent to the event field, and then passed another team, despite me having to walk at the top- with a final ripping downhill to finish, barely slowing for the fence where we tagged Rick and Neal who headed off on the Nav leg.
What a great route! I'm certainly going to go back and run it at leisure at some point, but crikey- at the end of this EVERYTHING was just tired and battered.
Looking at the results now, we finished in 1:31, which put us 35th fastest overall, and 8th in the V40 category. Our run brought the team into the top 10 V40 teams, which Rick and Neal on Leg 3 and Steve Brown on Leg 4 managed to hold on to until the end- 9th V40, which was pretty decent.
Thanks to Keswick for putting on such a fantastic event, truly a great day out. Thanks to Ian and Neal for
herding cats getting the Glossopdale teams together. It really is a monumental task of management- though it really shouldn't be. Congrats to our other teams- 2 Open and a Supervets team for getting out there and running some pretty tough legs. Impressive, big hearted running. Thanks also to Clare and Sean for the use of their photos and video- much appreciated.
And yes, I got back home with enough time to spare for a shower, some food, got changed and went straight back out for the Exercise. Great fun.
Oh- and the achilles feels fine. It'll still need a bit of rehab and tender care over the next few weeks, but the running didn't seem to affect it adversely. Happy days.