Sunday 5 October 2014

Ian Hodgeson Mountain Relay 2014

Early Morning Pick Up.
It's October, which means we're coming toward the end of the fell racing season, and the relays have begun in earnest before the XC kicks in. This year we've had a few injuries across the spectrum of Glossopdale, and so the team for the IHMR didn't look quite the same as it did a few weeks ago (with the ever gallant Andy O standing in on leg 2 at the last minute).

As such, we weren't entirely sure quite what the running order would be, as it happened, even until we got there.
The team takes shape
I picked up Andy O and Mark O and we travelled up in the morning, expecting to meet up with the rest of the team at Patterdale. Everything was going well, as we picked up Phil just outside Patterdale, having ditched his Camper-van somewhere. Caity and Al soon turned up, and having registered the team, I was busy handing out numbers and commemorative coasters. We got around to 30 mins to go before the start, and Jamie arrived, fresh from a night of no sleep, thanks to a child being ill, so that was everyone except for Tim C, who was ostensibly meant to be our leg 1 runner.
Time ticked down.
10mins, 5mins, 3min... as the teams were being called to the
Tim and John Arrive!
start line, a car crawled its way through the crowds. Its Tim and John. Yay! However, by this time, Plan B had already swung into action, and Jamie, who needed to get back to the family joined up with Phil on the start line while the logistics for the rest of the day started in earnest.

Tim, Mark, John and I stood around with a cup of coffee, watching the leg 1 runners hoof it off into the distance, with Phil and Jamie somewhere around mid-pack. We then went off to get changed, as John enjoyed himself trying to work out just how to put his bike back together.
Soon enough (too soon, in fact, but nevermind the details), Al was back, and the 4 of us, with John gamely trying to keep up on a bike, headed up to Kirkstone pass, ready for the change over from leg 2-3.
We figured it would take about 45 mins for leg 1, and maybe 1:30 or so for leg 2, all things being well.
Phil and Jamie, heading off on Leg 1

We were one of the first cars up at the pass, which wasn't a bad thing, getting a parking space being a bit of a priority. It was flipping cold up there, and the mist was down. Same as a year ago - there really wasn't a whole lot to see around the place, though occasionally the veil of fog lifted slightly, and we were given a glimpse of Red Screes.
Soon enough the car park began to fill up with runners and supporters. Big Jackets on, and we wandered around re-acquainting ourselves with the fellrunning fraternity. Unsurprisingly, Borrowdale stormed into view first, Morgan Donnelly and partner being a couple of minutes ahead of the next pair - Calder Valley, who in turn were followed by Dark Peak.
The view at Kirkstone, taken when the cloud had lifted...

No need to worry, we weren't expecting Andy and Caity til a fair while longer.
We stood in the wind, and looked expectantly up to the hillside. Team after team streamed in. Pretty quickly, Pennine had come and gone. More and more teams came and went. Andy and Caity must have got lost. Hopefully they got lost, as that would mean neither of them is injured...
Pennine Handover
Then Pennine V40 arrived in- and Stefan gave us the news that he'd seen the Glossop pair heading off somewhere that wasn't the right way... Ah - our suspicions were correct. well. Nevermind. We'll just have to try and make back some time on the last 2 legs.
Pennine Womens team came through.
Pennine Ladies, handing over

The marshals were beginning to debate when to have the mass start, as there were now only 8 teams of 70 left on the hill.... We knew it was coming, but it was forestalled as a couple of teams were seen through the mist, making their way down toward the road. Andy and Caity! Yes!
As they came in, decrying their navigational skills and a twisted ankle, Tim C and Al shot off up Red Screes and we all bundled into the car for a welcome bit of warmth.
Andy O and Caity come storming in
Caity and Andy can join the many many people that have messed up navigationally in a race. Not really a problem. Ok, we may have set off on leg 3 in 62nd place, but really, thats a minor issue. They're relatively non-injured, and learned something from the situation. We're here for a decent day out in the hills and were never going to win, so we settled in to see what happens on the next 2 legs. Added to that, they've probably got the most distance AND ascent for their money out of the whole lot of  us today.

I drove down to Sykeside, where Mark and I ostensibly began warming up - firstly by actually warming up with the heater in the car, and then with a bit of a run about. Not expecting Al and Tim to arrive any time soon, we killed time, chatting with some Pennine runners, and I ran up to the look out point to see what I could see. The Dark Peak Ladies had gone off a good few minutes before, along with a few other teams, but Pennine Ladies were still hanging around.
Catching up with fellrunning buddies
I turned around to look up the hill...What could I see?
Al. And Tim.
Crikey. They'd picked up 22 places in the leg.

My view, shortly before realising that Al and Tim were right behind me.
I hammered back down to the start pen shouting for Mark, tearing off my jacket and throwing it at Caity. Mark appeared into view, jacket still on as Al dibbed the dibber, and handed it over - and off we went. Following a pair of runners up the path to the first checkpoint, Mark comically trying to take his jacket off and run at the same time - eventually got it stowed into his bag and we started up the main drag to Hart Crag. On the way up there is a split where we could see 4 teams in front of us take the right hand choice. Uphill through bog. All the way to the top. I remember recceing this with Andy 2 years ago. The quickest line then was up the path, and thats what I'm going with today.
Ignoring people in front of you taking one line and doing your own thing is quite difficult when the clag is coming down. Mark was a few steps behind me, and I struck off up the path. If we can take these hard, we can take back a decent few places up here.
No-one else around.
Keep it up, legs pumping, arms working hard, Mark having trouble behind me - which I'm happy about. I was thinking it'd be me fighting to keep up with him. (the hill reps must be working).

We popped out out over onto the top of the rise, with the rest of the hill to the top of Hart Crag in front of us, but, most importantly, with the Dark Peak Ladies and 3-4 other teams still somewhere off to our right, in the valley coming up to our level. Excellent, time to bust on up to the top. Keeping on keeping on.
I led on up through the mist to the top, dibbing in at the summit, as another team appeared out of the mist from a completely different direction. Wierd.
Thanking the marshals, and running on fairly tractionless rocks, off into the mist we went. I was fairly confident of the route, and just blasted away, knowing that on a good day, Mark would trounce me completely, on an off day, he'd only just be behind me. Through the mist, on and upward to Fairfield, past Daz's memorial plaque, and memories of 2 years ago, and then a storming descent through the scree to St.Sunday Crag.

Across St Sunday, we very nearly took a very very bad line, which I again remember reccying a couple of years ago and thinking - no. Never do this route. Luckily, we just stopped leaping down an inviting looking gully, and carried on along the right path.
Off the craggy bit, and down some fantastic grassy lines that I was just making up as I went along, and then the climb to the top. It went on for quite a while, and with no-one to chase up the hill, it was a real drag, but at no point did we stop running. There were a pair who appeared behind us, and were following our every move. I had my suspicions that they would shadow us all the way and then try to out sprint us at the end.

Nothing really to do but go. Over the top, dib, and down the rocky path, making up lines around footpaths, staying on the grass as much as possible. We flew down the hill as hard as we dared on slippy stones and bog, aquaplaning through puddles, and if anyone ever tells you that their Inov8s are the grippiest shoes in the world and grip to ANYTHING, well quite frankly, they aren't running hard enough.

Final dibber before the horrible stone step descent to the show ground, and we were finally overtaken by the lurkers behind us. Mark was running hard with loud footsteps as we charged down the road, but they were just too far ahead of us for a sprint finish to change the outcome. Shame, but there you go. 1:19:38 - 3 mins faster than last year. Excellent, and we picked up a further 5 places beyond Al and Tim's effort.

We ended up 35th overall, and in the end, barely 2 mins behind the Pennine V40 team. Not too bad a come back from quite a navigational amusement on Leg 2. Good day out on the hills, and with some great lessons learnt.
Well done to the team, Phil, Jamie, Caity, Andy O, Tim C, Al, Mark O, and of course, the irrepressible John H for his support throughout the day.

Apologies for the lack of photos during our leg, I was a bit busy trying to put one foot in front of the other as fast as possible... and finally, a link to the results for the day.

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