****apologies for lack of photos**** you'll just have to pretend you're doing a text adventure or something.
I've had my eye on this race for a couple of years, but it always seems to crop up on a weekend when I'm doing something else. So with the whole pre-entry thing (for a max of 75 people) I thought I'd get my entry in early on in the year, fix it in my diary and get myself to the race.
Luckily a few other Glossopdalers were doing it as well, Matt H, Carl B, Tim C and Alice. There was some plan to head up for a recce a couple of weeks prior, but that never came off, so I entered the race pretty much blind, except for the map that I currently have in front of me.
After a slightly close call in not quite getting there in time (but in fact getting there at the same time as EVERYONE else), we registered and headed over to the start - about a 10 min walk away from registration in Stair Village Hall. Lots of t-shirts and mugs and food and drink were on sale there, but we did not partake, as outside the sun was shining, and you could see the top of Causey Pike, the first peak, rearing away up into the distance. It didn't make for a great sight.
(ok - no pictures, but here is a pic of my strava thing)
There was a compulsory kit check before the start, which was great, and we sat around in the sun chatting to Spyke and Judith and a couple of others as the crowd gathered around the starting tape. A short dedication of the race to absent friends, a few words of encouragement and we were off, up the hill. Nothing but uphill for about a mile or so as we carved our way up the "directissima" (as the Pete Bland map calls it) up Causey Pike.
I may have ended up being a bit enthusiastic here, and noted that thought as I cruised past Adam Perry in the first few hundred yards. For once my legs were feeling pretty strong, so I went with it. Half a km later, Adam or course came past at a decent clip and seemed content to power his way through the group I was in, rather than chase Rhys and the other 2 leaders who were, by this stage, a considerable distance out in front.
Despite hill reps and attempts to get faster at going up hills, this was to be an interesting day in terms of going up. There is a lot of it, and while I would love to be one of those that never actually stops to walk, that just wasn't going to happen. By the top of Causey Pike I was at the back of the group that runs most of the way up the hills, but walks occasionally- a satisfactory place to be - especially as on the descent I enjoyed running through some of the rougher stuff by the path and overtook a good number of those who had recently overtaken me - starting off a bit of a trend.
Up onto Outerside, the guys that I had overtaken on the way down began to cruise past me again, and by the time we hit the top, I was at the back again, struggling not to choke on half a chocolate bar.
The bash over to Coledale hause was interesting with a number of different lines being taken. I took a low line, closely following a Borrowdale vest, with a Bowland in close attendence. All was going well, and I reckon we were making pretty decent time on the rough ground when I slipped slightly and smacked my left knee on a stone. The bit that feels like the funnybone in your knee.
I pretty much dropped to the ground swearing and grabbed onto the grass trying to squeeze blood from it. The harder I squeezed, the less my knee hurt.
The Bowland guy checked I was ok before heading off, and I knelt there for a minute or so, composing myself and considering what shape I was in. Would I have to retire? Was I able to go on?
A couple of tentative steps and I could tell I was limping quite considerably. That being said, it felt a bit like I had clonked a nerve and it would probably be ok in a minute.
So I limped on, watching all those hard fought places pass above me and down to the track, ascending to the Hause in front of me.
I limped a little up the track and got overtaken, and thought - I'm not having that, and started running again. The knee seemed ok, so I continued and through sheer bloody-minded-ness began to catch the group in front of me again. Constantly trying to work out if taking the winding path or taking the direct line up the hill was better.
Once we hit the Hause there was a massive split in front of me, one lot of runners headed slightly up the beck before hanging a right and up the broad grassy swathe, while the others took the line up the crag. I took the former, and maybe would have had better luck taking the latter. Im not entirely sure. Whatever it was, I was a long way behind both groups on the way to the top of Grasmoor, but once we had turned I put my descending legs to good use and picked off a few people on the way down and across to Whiteless Pike - really enjoying the downhills and the slightly technical ground which seemed to be holding others up.
From Whiteless Pike we hung a left, down Bleak Rigg into Newlands Hause. I could see the group I had been a part of, spread out across the hill taking a variety of different lines, so I dropped. Knees were hurting a bit by now. Fatigue was beginning to set in, but I was still able to descend competently and by the time I hit the bottom of the hill I was back in the middle of the group again - to my huge surprise.
However the "traverse" (more like a climb and a bit of a traverse) to the Hause took its toll and I lost a couple of places in the toil up to there - the only water stop on the race.
Hang a right and the steep side of the wonderfully named High Snockrigg comes into view. The front runners of my little group shoot off up the hill and my legs begin to complain. It's turning into hard going, but I can't really give up. No idea if I had a gel here, I probably did - the main thing was it was a proper slog to get to the top and I lost another couple of places on the way up.
From the top we could see across to Robinson and again, there were 2 distinct lines of people going up it. I chose the one with the Borrowdale runner in it. I chose wrong. My race trace shows a shocking line to and around the top losing another couple of places. Perhaps my worst line in a race so far, and one which I could have avoided by reccying. Ah well - at least I know for the future.
(I thought I was doing pretty damn well with my ascending on that section as well... just shows how wrong you can be).
Coming off Robinson my legs were dead. I was descending like a roadrunner - though thankfully that was all that the other people around me seemed able to do as well. By this time we had been joined by the racers doing the Anniversary Waltz, and it was difficult to tell who I was racing against, and who was in the other race. Still, route finding was going to be easier.
We made our way up Hindscarth, walking and running, and at the top were a few marshals and an open packet of Tangfantastics - Bonus. I grabbed a couple and scarfed them, happy that they had such good taste at that checkpoint. Had they been jellybabies I wouldnt have touched them.
Again off Hindscarth I wasn't descending well and was anxious to get to the end - though this wasn't going to happen particularly quickly if I ended up walking. I tried to keep up with the people around me, still not entirely aware of who was in which race. Bashing up to Dale head was a challenge, but not so much as the descent off. I was fully aware of just how badly I was going downhill, but was still overtaking other people, which was a complete surprise. Perhaps I was caught up in a pack of runners in the Waltz who I wouldn't normally be running against? I also took a shocking line off Dale Head and will certainly need to recce that should I ever run this again.
Up to High Spy, and an Ambleside runner bolts left down the hill into a ditch having been caught short.
I trade places with a couple of other guys, finding that my walking is keeping pace with their running, and when I have the energy to run, I can put a goodly distance into them with a short burst of running. I try to keep this up over to Malden moor - mistakenly thinking it was Catbells and all I had was a short drop off.
The Ambleside runner catches up with me, I see the down and up to Catbells in front of me And then White Stuff started to drop from the sky.... not a lot, but enough to notice. Nice.
I've taken all my gels, (I've even picked up other gel wrappers that others have dropped), and my legs are feeling tired. Really tired... but what is that up ahead? A Carnethy runner.... walking? I remember seeing him run past me a long time ago... sometime in the first part of the race and I haven't seen him since then. He sticks out like a sore thumb amongst all the Anniversary Waltzers. "keep walking" I silently urge him, and run past him on the way up to Catbells.
With renewed vigour I plunge off Catbells, its only a descent now and although my legs are on the verge of cramp, the faster I can make them go the less likely it is that is going to happen. Passing a few runners on the way down I really enjoy this section, down along the ridge and then following the flagged path (National trust asked that runners not take the direct line this year). Stretching out, and at the bottom of the path as we joined the road, another 2 runners appeared, one with a distinctive bumbag that, again, I hadn't seen since the first half of the race. Moving fast, I overtook and maintained my pace. Down onto the road and round corners...
how long is this road section? I have no idea. I didn't even do the whole "recce the end before you start the race" thing as I didn't really have time.
Stretch the legs, ignore everything else, and hope you haven't gone too early. I could see a couple of runners in front of me, but wasn't able to close them down any - but those behind me didn't close me down either. Eventually I came to the final turn and the last few metres into the funnel.
14th. About 3:10 and a bit. The guy in front of me (Ross Litherland) was actually 2 mins ahead, the runners I was chasing were all Waltzers. Brill.
Not only that, but coming in a minute or so behind me are Spyke, swiftly followed by Wardy. I don't think Ive ever beaten Spyke before, so I was pretty made up about that.
Well done to Rhys F-R for winning today in about 2:39. Excellent piece of running. How Ben Mounsey beat him in an English Champs I just can't imagine.
A great day out, thanks to the organisers and the marshals. I hope you didn't get too cold up on the tops, especially when it really began to sleet later. Matt (finished in 3:33) and I made good our escape after it appeared that the field we were parked in may well have turned into a quagmire. It was also fantastic to catch up with an old friends who I had no idea would be there (Phil, Im looking at you), it was also interesting to see a good number of Teenager with Altitude finishers coming down the final track in a fair amount of pain through cramp and blisters.... not something you see very often in fellracing.
Apologies for the complete lack of photos but I didn't actually take any, I was too busy trying not to fall over.
Oh, and the knee is fine, thanks. As ever, I still need to get better at uphills....