Sunday, 19 October 2014

FRA relays 2014

Glossopdale had 4 teams in for the FRA relays this year. Mens A and B, and Womens A and B. As ever, there was the last minute panic of people being ill, being injured and dropping in and out of teams, but our capable team captains handled all the hustle and bustle with aplomb.

The relays were held on Middleton fell this year. For those who don't know where it is, its a bit south of Sedbugh and a bit north of Kirkby Londsdale. And if you don't know where they are, its basically just a bit to the right of the Lake District.
Being in Leg 2, I was in an early car to get up to the start. Fell running and early mornings tend to go together very well. Or at least, they just seem to go together.

Pennine Legend John Doyle, warming up. Or is that Billy Connelly?
We faffed around for a bit, putting up the tent, a fairly amusing prospect given the rather fresh breeze - which we just so happened to put up pretty close to the hand-over/finish line - perfect for loud shouting at our teams, and indeed others. No matter how well we did,
or didn't do, I'm pretty sure there wasn't anyone else who rivaled us for supporting volume. (Except for maybe the MC on the mic, who kept up a constant humerous babble throughout the entire event.. a good effort).
The leg one runners all set off at a ridiculously fast pace, thrashing off up the hill. The course, from where we were stood was one of those that fell runners dread. "Very runnable". Or, as others have put it, "horrendously runnable".
Mark and I set off to make ourselves ready for leg 2, figuring that we had about 45 or 50 mins before our leg 1 runner, Jamie, got back. We got kit checked, stood about for a bit as we watched the top few teams come in and change over before we wandered into the holding area.

The Start
The first Glossop runner in was Chris, our B team leg 1 runner, swiftly followed by Caity, the Ladies A team runner. Pennines A team had long gone by then, and Pennines V40 team, with Stevie K and Noel had also gone off, but all of a sudden Jamie came into view, round the corner, and tagged us off on our Leg.

As mentioned in the last race report- the Ian Hodgeson relay, being matched with someone who has beaten you in all the races you've ever done with them doesn't half focus the mind on training. Unfortunately I've had a cold for the past week, and DOMs from a particularly nasty training seminar last week, so I haven't been doing anything outside for the past week... I only just managed to get out for a short run yesterday to check that my legs still worked. My basic idea on this horribly runnable route was to hang on to Marks coat tails as he stormed around.
We blasted up the start of the hill with the wind behind us, overtaking a couple of teams before we got out of the first field, and were closing in on the Pennine V40 team pretty fast. I wondered if we weren't going off just a bit too hot, but nothing really to do but keep the pace up. I managed to get in front of Mark as we started the long traverse/ascent up to checkpoint 1, overtaking Stevie and Noel. We kept up a decent pace all the way up, taking teams all the way, and gaining back places on the Glossopdale B team (Harshan and Tom), and the Glossopdale Ladies (Zoe and Julie) before we got to the checkpoint.

A bit of walking, a lot of running, and an awful lot of breathing, and still we climbed. Up, and past a Bowland team, HBT ladies, Helm Hill, and so on. My ears popped for the 2nd time on the ascent, and suddenly I could hear again. We hammered on up the hill, I wasn't so concerned about who we caught now, but rather that Stevie and Noel didn't catch us back up. Mark took the lead, and I struggled in his wake, but we stayed very well matched through the whole way up, which I was very happy about.

We actually hit the top a lot faster than I expected, and dived down the otherside of the hill, passing a very shouty Andy Fox (if you've never seen him excited, get out on an FRA relay), and followed the flags (which were quite unhelpfully yellow, against a backdrop of yellow grass... exceptionally hard to see), down to the "pointless" checkpoint, a 200m drop, and then a climb straight back up again.
I waited for Mark at the bottom of the drop, tying my shoelace, before facing the climb. Pennine V40's were behind us, but in eyeshot, closing us down as they dropped down the hill, but I was relatively confident of our climbing ability... though the field was stretched out in front of us, up a hill that was Jura-like in steepness, but not in terrain.
At times, it was less like the FRA hill running champs, and more like the UKA uphill bearcrawl champs. It took us a while to get up that steep slope, covered in heather, and tussocks and holes, but Mark and I were in touching distance as we reached the top, and began the run through the mist up to the summit.

Dib at the top, and then a hoon down a hill, with blustery weather buffeting us from the left as we slipped, slid, ran and fell down the hill. Another 3 teams overtaken on the descent, another dibber, and then the final stretch back to the handover. It was only about 2-3km, but into the wind all the way, and across rough ground. My legs were shot, but everyone was in the same boat. Stop and walk, and a load of teams would have come past us, so we battled on. Overtaking Buxton, and tucking in with Rossendale.
About a mile away from the end, we were neck and neck with Rossendale, both teams as fast as each other, as I noticed my shoe had come undone. Again. (for the more observant of you, no, I was not using the patented "wendy dodds technique" of doing my laces up, as mentioned at Kentmere).
Ah well. I'm not stopping now, by the time I've done tying it up, they'll be too far ahead to catch.

As we ploughed into the final descents through the fields above the event centre I realised that the transit areas were getting really muddy. Quite deep and muddy. Loose shoe and deep mud was most probably going to end up with me losing it somewhere, so I made a decision that if it came off, I'd just leave it there, and come back for it later.
Thankfully, I managed to dance through the last few bits of bog and retain my footwear, coming into the finish area a good 10 seconds before the Rossendale team, handing over to our leg 3 runners.
Me and Mark coming into the finish.

The terrain was horrendously runnable. The wind was ridiculously stiff. Mark and I ran out of our skins, coming in 27th fastest on our leg, bringing us from 84th to 40th overall. No wonder I felt rough at the end for about 20 mins.
We slowly recovered, eating and drinking, and the other Glossopdale teams came in, with the Navigation leg guys going out.

Soon enough, Dark Peak A came in for their final transition, sending off Rob Little on the final leg with a good couple of minutes lead on Calder Valley in 2nd. If we were to be anywhere near as good as last year (in our heads) we needed to get our final leg runner off before Rob finished. Unfortunately Tim C, running with Andy O on our Navigational leg had twisted his ankle pretty badly within the first few miles of starting, and they were not quite as fast as they wanted to be. However, they ran on, and managed to get around the Nav leg and get our leg 4 runner, Alasdair, off about a minute before Rob came flying into the finish. Superb, we're doing pretty well, it has to be said.
Charlie and Andy hand over to Al.

Al came in 50 mins later (or thereabouts), the GDH A team coming in 50th overall. There was obviously some stiff competition this year at the sharp end of the race, considering that we were in the mid-twenties last year. Still, room for improvement next year, I think.
Al, with his perennial double thumbs up pose.
As a team we managed to get all our teams off on leg 4 before the mass start, something that hasn't been done before, so well done to all those involved.
If you blow this picture up, you can see Alice jumping with joy as Sue and Jude are arriving just before the mass start, giving Alice a few minutes headstart on everyone else.
Also - fantastically well done to both John Hewitt, running his first race since Dollar - a good comeback from injury - and also to Alice, running with a dodgy tummy, and generally not feeling exactly well.
John Hewitts race face.

To be honest though, I think everyone on all the teams deserves a mention as they ran with heart. And that's the important thing.
Womens A - Caity Rice, Zoe Barton, Julie Cox, Cheryl Stitt, Lindsay Palmer and Jo Nuttal
Womens B - Alison Holt, Rachel Walton, Vicki Hamilton, Sue Clapham, Jude Stansfield and Alice Willson
Mens A - Jamie Helmer, Mark Ollerenshaw, Andy Oliver, Tim Culshaw, Alasdair Cowell
Mens B- Chris Jackson, Harshan Gill, Tom Young, John Stephenson, Charlie Eaton and John Hewitt

Well done guys. Well run.

And finally, can I say how wonderful it is to see Si Coldrick out on the hill and racing well again. Great to see him well after the Cow episode earlier this year.
Good effort Si. I swear the titanium gives you an extra few seconds of speed.

Full results here.

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