I'm not sure if that means they are better, or worse prepared for the racing that lies ahead.
The Glossopdale mob descended en masse to Shropshire this weekend for the combination Titterstone Clee and Long Mynd valleys weekend.
After a convivial evening in the pub the night before, a convoy of us went over to the start of the short, lung bursting Titterstone Clee race. Andy and Jules decided to mosey on around the Mynd, encountering Tanks and time warps, but thats another story.
On arrival, and on stepping into the hall to register, there was a booming voice enquiring if we had maps for the event, and under no circumstances were we to run the race without a map. Considering this is a 4km out and back race, I thought this was a little heavy handed, especially as the maps on sale last year looked like this....
Which, I grant you, is a map of the area, but a piece of paper with 4 lines drawn on it would probably be just as much help in getting you off this particular hill. That, however, is a whole other debate, which I will, no doubt, get drawn into at a later date. (yes you can be made to carry a map, but that doesn't mean you can read it, etc.etc.)
However, the organiser said that we should tell everyone on social media that he wasn't going to let anyone race without a map, so here I am telling you that if you go to this very short race with no map, they won't let you run. That's a whole new level of officiousness, but if you don't like it, I suppose, don't race.
Maybe I won't be racing this one next year.
Anyhow, Steve Knight and I arrived early to have a bit of a jog up the course, checking out the route, and more importantly, the route back into the finish, meeting up with Lloyd Taggart and another Manx runner who were out recceing the entire course. Well, that'll be at least 3rd then. The snow was still pretty deep on the ground in places, so footing was going to be fun on a long hard run in, and we were certainly going to have to be careful.
Back at the start, we all got herded into the start pen to give in a number to say we were going to race, before being given a speech and moving (finally) to the start line.
None of this ready, steady... stuff, just a Go! And we hurtled away up the road, before a good majority of us jumped over the ditch and onto the moorland. I followed the line I had recced earlier, and there were about 8 people in front of me, Lloyd was off out in front, floating over pretty much anything that came his way, and we blatted across the moorland.
Chris had taken a direct line along the road, before heading up the path and intersected with our line just in front of me and a couple of other runners. The running line was trodden into the snow, and overtaking was going to have to be done in the deeper fluffy stuff to the sides. However, there was a selection being made, and the top runners were getting away.
Despite having been going at a decent pace all the way, uphill, so far, I stepped into the deeper stuff, turned on the power and accelerated past the 3 runners in front of me before getting back onto the track, such as it was. Another guy did the same, immediately overtook me, and put another 5 metres into me. It was all I could do to hang onto the pace that I had used with the overtake. Lungs burning, legs burning, never looking back, I carried on up the hill.
Snow on the ground was thicker the further up the hill we got, and as we got to the steepest part, I could still see the front runners up ahead, running up the steep. So I had to do the same. I was under no illusion that my ascent speed was a whole lot slower than theirs, but still managed to get up the ankle+deep snow slope without breaking into a walk. At the top, just as it was levelling out, Lloyd came flying past me, way ahead of any chasers, then as I moved onward to the top, the next batch of 3 passed me on their way down (who were 1:10 ahead at the top), followed by the guy that had passed me earlier on in the race.
Top, and turn, and make the legs work for the return leg. Steve was pretty close to me at the turn point, as was Karl Steinegger from Ambleside... I certainly didn't have any breathing room, so lengthened my stride across the top. The ice proved slippy, and I nearly came a cropper just before the steep descent, but managed to keep my footing as I hurtled past an ascending John Hewitt. There was the guy in front of me, but he wasn't looking like being in a mood to be caught, so it was really a case of don't let him out of my sight.
Further down the hill I felt a slapping on my shin... shoelace. Argh. And I had tied them well. For a split second the thought was "do I have enough time to stop and .... of course I don't". So I kept going. Down past those horrible stones which were made even more treacherous by the snow and ice, on and on, I'm not going to let anyone catch me.
And then the guy in front took a doozy of a line. We are 500m out from the end, and I must be 20 seconds behind him, maybe I can pull this back.
I take the line Steve and I recced before, and within 200m I'm only about 10m behind him, and closing. Time is running out though, and from here, there is no other way other than straight to the end.
Harder, faster, and I'm right behind him as we leap onto the road for the final sprint. I try to take a super direct line, and so does he, squeezing me into the post of the finish funnel - so I took the only option and launched myself for the line, sliding for it feet first.
We were both recorded at 20:45, but because he stayed on his feet and wandered over to the number recorder before I did, he was recorded at 5th and me at 6th.
Close, in fact, neck and neck, but still split by the bloke with the clipboard.
Steve Knight came in next Glossopdale, surprising pretty much everyone with his prowess at Short, hard races, with Al out sprinting Chris for the 3rd and 4th GDHers home. Caity was first Lady, with Zoe being 2nd, and Alice rounding out the results as 3rd lady home.
The whole thing basically takes about 20mins, and is a superb lung busting effort, and that was shown by pretty much everyone who stood around at the end coughing up bits of nastiness that such hard breathing conjures up from the depths of yer lungs. Having worked in a respiratory ward in hospital, I'd have to say, thats a good thing. Get all that stuff out!
Legs a wibble, we mooched off to the Horseshoe pub for food and prize giving, where Al was surprised to be the winner of V40, and John Hewitt was very much surprised to be the V50 winner. Caity was indeed 1st lady, and the combined chocolateage that was won was happily shared around and about all who were there.
As an afternote, I have to say, that despite the hoo-ha about "you MUST have a map" and various officiousness, no-one was actually kit checked for the map. (sorry to those who run it next year, I've probably cursed you, but you have indeed been warned).