Sunday, 4 May 2014

Coniston Fellrace, English Champs race 2

My enjoyment of the English fell champs continued this weekend, with a trip to the Lake District for the Coniston Fellrace. It's an absolute cracker, with an horrendous amount of climbing, followed by more climbing, followed by more climbing with a stonking descent at the end.
As I mentioned in my Pendle post, I'm looking to get at least into double figures in terms of championship points over this year, which meant coming in at least 50th place.
Early morning reccying
Scanning down the start list, it was looking less less promising by the minute, so having turned up ridiculously early (and being first in the car park), Lynne and I took our coffees up the hill and had a quick recce of the final couple of kilometres.

Coffee and Bacon sarnies. The right way to
start the day
For those who don't know, the Coniston descent line is a bit of a conundrum. Everyone, it seems, has their own special line, and no-one really knows what the best line is. (With the exception, perhaps, of Ian Holmes, 7 times winner of this race). If you don't recce the descent, you are probably at a significant disadvantage, and to be honest, I hadn't even looked at the lines off the top until I saw it that morning. You could just about see to the top from 2km out, and I vaguely plotted a route in my head, and thought, "that'll do", and we wandered back down the final mile of the run in, taking note of specifics to do with the terrain. You never know, it might help in the end, even if I haven't got a clue what the rest of the race is going to be like!

After getting my number, poking around the mobile Pete Bland store and wandering back to the ever filling
Last minute shoe tying. 
carpark, eating some scran and getting changed, it was getting close to start time. More and more people were filling up the roads and paths, warming up, chatting to acquaintances, and checking out the final cattle grid jump.
We lined up, and I finally got around to seeing a couple of Glossopdalers around me, as we listened to the
race organiser talk his stuff. There was also a minutes silence before the off, as a person who was registered to do the race had recently, sadly died while skiing in the Alps. After that time of peace and respect, the siren went, and off we went. As ever, I think I was about a third of the way down the field, and there was the inevitable bunching and stacking up as we climbed up the road, and I would imagine the guys at the front went off hammer and tongs.

Thats what we all looked like. First proper hill. 
The road was, as expected, pretty horrible, having to dart around and about between runners who had overguessed themselves and started a bit too far up the field, and were significantly falling back. Then the turn right, and a surge up the ridiculously steep grassy bank toward Mouldry How. I was pretty close to Pennine Nick at this point, and I could feel my legs beginning to get heavy already. Not a good thing, especially so close to the start of a Medium race. Up ahead of us, the leaders, already 50, 60 yards ahead were still running. I was now at a point of run/walking, and cursing my heavy legs. The lungs felt fine, but the legs really didn't have it. Not even 5 minutes into a race, and already making excuses?

I fought my way up the bank, losing touch with Nick, and then, from nowhere, Pennine Noel appeared beside me, and continued upward as I falteringly tried to hold on to him. Must be something up with my legs. Or, Noel is having a stonkingly good race, already... We crested the brow, and another runner slotted between us, and I looked up, seeing the true nature of this race. The ascent went on for another 3.5km. Undulating, but mainly rising, all the way to Wetherlam.

Walking, running, stumbling, and generally hurting, I staggered my way to the top, Noel and Nick, ecking out a lead over me that was unassailable for me as my legs just refused to go faster. Several other runners around me were battling it out, a Dark peaker and an Ambleside runner, with a guy from Bingley way off to the right, taking a radically different line, which proved to be about the same as the one I was on. Places swapped and changed up the hill, for many, many minutes. Most of what I
Me. Attempting to keep up with Noel. 
can remember was rasping breath and fast fatiguing quads. Getting to Wetherlam was a blessing, but also a curse, as we turned around the top, I could see just how far away those Pennine vests were getting, and the guys just behind me obviously recovered a lot faster than me, and overtook straightaway. Runners stretched out in front of me up Prison Band to Swirl How. A lot more than 50. I have my work cut out for me, so stretched off down the uneven ground, overtaking a couple of runners, before hitting that next climb.

A repeat of what had gone previously. Watching those Pennine vests get smaller into the distance, as those around me continually fought for metres up the hill. Thighs burning and breath coming in gasps.
The top of Swirl How came and went, runners split into different packs and went in different directions, and I followed a Bingley and an Amblesider. We three skirted around the top, and ended up running up a crazy angled section to rejoin the path again. Did we gain? Did we lose? I think it was much of a muchness - but my bearings were slightly off - we appeared to be vaguely approaching the Old man of Coniston. Shouldn't I be following a lower path? Isn't it better to be more cunning about route choice here?

At this point, my brain was pretty much fried, and I was thinking about the descent... how would that go? I'm
I have no image of the descent,
so this'll have to do
somewhere outside of the top 50, I'm around a load of decent runners, most of whom are going to have the line off the fell nailed. I'm just going to have to wing it and see what happens.
We climbed up toward the top, with masses of people around - it being a Bank Holiday weekend, walkers were all over the place, along with spectators and the odd dog, so making your way through them was a little interesting, then, past the trig, ignore the path off to the left, and plunge over the brow.

I could already see Noel down below me, the line he had taken was pretty obvious, and there were others out off to the right. The Bingley guy had gone off a bit right, but I thought I'd just go down where Noel was, and see if I was actually catching him.
Not going hell for leather - there was quite a significant amount of descent to do yet, I seemed to be gaining ground on him quite well. Excellent, down, down, down. Inbetween us was a bit of scree and a bit of dodgy ground, and I could see him heading toward the quarry. Not where I wanted to be. I wanted freedom on the hill, so took a radical right turn and headed on a line that pretty much no-one else would have taken, dropped like a stone and came across some other runners. Carving left, I gained their line and just went with them.

Underfoot was ok, though I was having to drop off rocks and through gaps that others were not comfortable with, so I gained a few places on those I could see around me- and also those who I couldn't see on other bits of the hill. I ended up following someone else, then overtook them, and so on down the hill. At one point there was a fantastic bowl that opened up, and we blasted down through that and onto a path.
Getting closer to the bit I had actually recced. I took a chance and opened up, overtaking the guy in front, and tried to get closer to the next guy.
And THEN I recognised the path. Excellent. I knew the path, I knew the racing line - and chose the path, while the guy behind took the racing line. Damn. Well, we'll see which is fastest.
I chased 3 more guys down the path, thinking all the time of the one above me on the "good" line. I reached the gate, without even seeing him- so it isn't always which bit of the hill you're on, but more, how much legs you have left at the end of the race.

Down through a gaggle of people, and down to the river. The guy in front took the path to the right, I leapt
Sprint to the line. 
over the stile, dashed through the river and up onto the path on the left and hammered down the road.
He came out of the path bang on where I thought he would be, both paths are, again, much of a muchness. 800 metres to go, and he still had a 10 metre lead on me.
What if he is 50th and I'm 51st?
I'm Not having that.

I eased toward him, and with 400 to go, I was in front, a leap over the cattle grid and a steep descent down the road, a sharp left, and I knew I had whatever place I had taken. Sprint for the line.
1:19:27 (or so).

Provisionally. 59th.
Ah, 9 off the points. Still. An improvement on Pendle, so going in the right direction.
Now to sit down, analyse, and workout where I can get faster. Everywhere, probably. Especially on climbs that go on for a ridiculous and inordinate amount of time!

For the Glossop contingent- well done to Caity for pulling off an impressive 3rd in the Ladies. Excellent running by Rich White saw him come in 3rd Glossopdale. Carl Bedson produced a strong finish and was 4th
Tis but a flesh wound...
GDH home, showing excellent form at the moment. Zoe was in fine form and was rightfully battling for GDH places with the blokes. John Hewitt is unfortunately still feeling the effects of the flu AND the highlander MM and was unhappy with his, still very creditable run, and Beryl had a superb day out, really enjoying her time around the course, though I'm still waiting to find out her placing in the V60/65 cat. (Though I'm sure she enjoyed the post race jacuzzi more than the actual race).

Excellent running by all.
And please remember. Pin your number to your vest before you start... otherwise you won't be able to race... a lesson learnt by one of our Pennine breathren this weekend

1 comment:

  1. well done Tim, you've been improving greatly year on year and this one is no different!