Saturday, 25 April 2015

3 Peaks Fell Race 2015

3 Peaks Fell Race. PPP. Perhaps the most expensive race I've entered this year. Not necessarily one that I was entirely certain I wanted to do, but seeing as it has a particular pedigree, I figured I'd better do it at some point, and now seemed as good a time as any.
I hadn't really thought about it much, and only really looked at the map last night. Ive been to the general area
Breakfast table timings. (not a map)
once previously- that was doing a 12 hour adventure race in 2007 where we climbed Ingleborough in the clag and dark, ended up crawling through a cave and abseiling off a viaduct. Perhaps this time would be a little different.
At the breakfast table, Lynne and I sorted out my approximate timings for the race. Having heard a fair amount of detail about the route from other runners around the club, and others that I know, I was in for a few hills, a lot of flat stuff, and some tarmac. Shoe choice for the race? Well, with the recent rain, the idea of road shoes as had been mooted on some forums was definitely out. Once the rock was wet, nothing was going to grip to it... also, the only shoes I really have for racing at the moment are a pair of x-talons.

The weather in Yorkshire wasn't too bad, but the tops were clagged in. Drizzle was happening on and off, and there was no sun to speak of. Clothing choices revolved around wearing waterproof or not - it could go either way, and I opted for the waterproof on approach - not an approach that many people at the sharper end of the race were going for. The weather was forecast to get colder, but less windy as the day went on. With possible snow on the tops. Fabulous.

Kit Faffage!
After a kit check from Mountain (cave) rescue, and then mantadory race briefing we headed off to the start, - where I discovered that my somewhat dilapidated x-talons were even worse for wear than I thought, and the sole was really ripping off from the front of the shoe. Hmmm. Ah well - no time to be concerned about that now... and with a bit of a kaboom (fireworks), we were off, across the grass, out of the field, and onto a road for a while. The pace at the front was ridiculously high, sweeping along a good number of people who certainly weren't going to keep up for the whole race, along for the ride. I tried to keep my head and kept a decent pace, running with Stevie K from Pennine for a while.
Off up onto a track and I started to overtake a couple of people, but was aware that going to fast at this stage would certainly make me falter and not go well later in the race. I kept the running up going up the hill, and took off my waterproof... just as the mist started to come down and the wind rose up. Up towards the head of Pen-y-ghent Jez from Buckley came past me.
Off to the top of the hill, and then back down again, past a line of people going up. Down to the path that takes us on our winding way toward Whernside.  This was going to be a tricky one... its a long way along that path before you hit the second climb. It undulates, and it ducks and dives a bit, and if you shoot off too fast, again, there is going to be a whole world of pain once you hit Ingleborough.

So I maintained my pace, keeping at a distance behind a gaggle of Ilkey runners, and other hangers on. I don't tend to enjoy running in packs, and quite liked the semi-solitude in the midst of a race with nigh on 800 runners in it. We turned towards the next checkpoint, and started going a bit into the wind, so figuring it might be better to be in a group rather than battle on solo, only a short distance behind them, I opened up a bit and wound them in until I was firmly in the group, a downhill to a gate appeared, and all of a sudden I was in front and through the gate first and chasing down the guys in front of the people that were in front of me.
That wasn't entirely meant to happen, but I felt pretty good and went with it.
By this time, there was a little bit of tightness developing in the right Hamstring, and in my hip flexors. Really hoping that cramp wasn't about to set in at any point, I jammed down a gel and just got my head down.
For the rest of the trail we pretty much played cat and mouse as first I went ahead, and then others overtook, and generally everyone around me was going at about the same pace.
Then we hit the dreaded road section.

A pic from Racing Snakes - with me in it!
Jeez. As we took the slight rise towards the road, the Ilkey hunting party and other guys somehow managed to gain a load of distance on me, and the road section just seemed to go on forever. I'm pretty sure I commented to a couple of people that I was sure that I had entered a fell race at the beginning of the day. It was so long that it just seemed ridiculous. A runner came past exclaiming that he really wasn't a fell runner,. so was enjoying this bit.
I was very much of the opposite opinion.
So I ended up going through the Checkpoint before Whernside on my own wondering if I'd ever catch up with anyone that had passed me.
Thankfully, with another gel down me and the terrain underfoot getting worse and worse, I gained some time and distance over the Ilkey boys. I caught up with Jez again, and we chatted about how the bog wasn't nearly as bad as the leg sucking bog of the Moelwyns a week ago, and continued up the hill.
It was a bit of a battle of attrition as we surged and countersurged (well, walked, walked faster, walked slower, and attempted to overtake each other) - (surged sounds better).
Until we hit the steep bit.
Somehow, I still had a fair amount of strength in my legs and went for it. The people around me seemed to fall away, and I managed to catch and pass another runner in front of me. The climb went so well that by the time I got to the top of Whernside there was no-one in sight in front of me, so having dibbed at the checkpoint I kind of ambled off to the left and hoped that if it was the wrong way, some one would call me back....

I sauntered down the hill, wondering if I was in fact going in the right direction, until out of the murk I ended up seeing another runner, and people clapping. So the speed picked up, and I managed to catch him before the going got a little rough. Thinking at all times I was going to get caught by the posse that I had managed to lose on Whernside I just carried on at a decent pace - only one hill to go now, but I didn't particularly want to burn out at this point, but the going was relatively easy. A bit under dodgy underfoot, but even at the pace I was going I was able to put distance into the people I was catching and passing.

Ingleborough was rearing in the near distance, and considering the form I showed on Whernside, I was actually quite looking forward to it. Past the checkpoint, up the road and right into a field, and a continuation of the trail that ended up looking a little like the flagstones across Bleaklow. And people were walking on them.
Not for me - another gel and although I wasn't exactly skipping across them, I was doing myself some credit by passing another few people on the run up to the steeps of the hill. The last climb of the day, and the real sting in the tail of this race. "inglebugger" as it has indeed been called.
It would be great to say that I romped up to the top without a care in the world, but that wasn't exactly the case. There were still people behind me, and there was still a great deal of work to do. Steep climbing is a good thing though, and by the time we came out on top before the plateau to the trig point and back, there was only me and one other guy near me. We hit the plateau just as Nick Barber was heading down... either he was having a bad race, or I was having a really good one (yup - I still hadn't looked at my watch, despite being most of the way through). Then Mark O appeared out of the mist - on the down path. Crikey, I didn't expect that.

We stumbled across the bleak, misty top towards the checkpoint, me being reminded of last time I was there - it was bleak, misty, and midnight... so at least we had a bit of daylight this time. Dib, and turn, as we ran back, we could assess just how far ahead we were of the other guys who were immediately behind us. It turned out we had a decent amount of distance, but not so much of a lead that we could get complacent about it.
The Bar at the end
The tops now done, it was only the run in to do. A 6 mile trundley blast down some of the least runnable tracks I have ever had the misfortune to "run" on. It was all I could do to keep upright, and to be fair to inov8, there is nothing that would have provided any kind of grip on wet limestone, so at least we were all in
the same boat.
There were a couple of lines in the grass next to the path which I took, but it was still pretty grim underfoot. Up ahead there were 2 runners who appeared to be slowly being reeled in by us. Funnily enough I passed them just as we were being cheered on by the only Glossopdalers on cheering duty-Tony Jackson and wife, I was still feeling strong at that point - but wasn't sure just how far it was to go.

The next few kilometres passed in a haze of impending sugar crash. Ground underfoot went slippy, muddy, slimey, limestone slippiness, and horribleness. The guy who was with me at the top of Ingleborough cruised past me with about a k to go. By this point I was holding on for grim death. The only food left in my bag was the emergency food, buried at the bottom of it somewhere...It couldn't be too far to the end now, so I gamely trudged on, up and over a final rise, teeth gritted, and down through someone's garden (or was I hallucinating.... I swear we went through a garden - and under a tunnel) and the happy happy sight of the finishing funnel.

I could barely stand.
My tag was cut off, and I wandered in a daze to the marquee where I sat down on the floor and felt, in technical terms "pretty bloody terrible" for a while.
Actual timings. Check them against the breakfast ones above...
Official time was 3:25:57. 41st. A "first class" time, which I was pretty happy with after I got over feeling nauseous and horrible, and I was only a couple of minutes behind mark O as well - which was quite astonishing.

Unfortunately we were joined soon after by Jo from GDH who had slipped and fallen, cracking her chin
open, and required first aid. Despite being covered in blood, and somewhat theworse for wear, she wanted to carry on, but was not allowed (somewhat sensibly) by the marshals.
She was last seen heading to A&E, and has been heard from since, so she's ok-ish.

On another note, Caity from GDH came in 3rd lady - which was a superb effort. No idea if it was a record for her, but crikey, thats good going. Mark O managed a PB by about 6 minutes, Chris knocked off a couple of minutes from last years time, Rich wasn't 3rd from last and didn't have the same kind of melt down as he had last week at the Teenager race, and Paul Skuse had a decent run on his first attempt at the PPP as well.
Thanks muchly to all the marshals - I said hello and thankyou to as many of you as I could, but there were just too many! It was also fabulous to be cheered on by so many people all the way around. Always nice to have some encouragement, even if most of them did insist on calling me "Lad". 
Knackered now.
Ready for club champs tomorrow. Kinder Downfall. I'm sure that's a good idea.

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