Race, Race, Race...
Since my last update, I have been busy working & racing - nothing new, I guess! Although I now represent Calder Valley on the fells, as well as continuing to represent the Dashers at road, trail & cross-country events. I have also since had my birthday and what better way to celebrate than doing a classic up & down fell race in the Lakes? More on that one later...
Bleasdale Circle was the first on my list after Windy Hill and that put us all to the test. The weather was possibly the worst I have raced in to date (touch wood there won't be much worse any time soon!). At the start it was the typical four seasons of conditions & very wet underfoot from the previous days downpours. I dabbled with my waterproof on and off, decided against racing with it on as I get warm very quickly, especially when running uphill. 95 hardy souls were bouncing up and down on their tip-toes, ready for the starters orders. We held a perfectly observed silence to respect the loss of a former Bowland FR member and Mountain Rescue member, Joe Smith, who sadly passed away following an incident on Ben Nevis in severe winter conditions. Sam Tosh of Rossendale won the race in 37:05, closely followed by Bowland's own, Chris Arthur & the returning Carl Bell in 3rd place, with Wharfedale's Mark McGoldrick & Helm Hill's Adam Perry coming in right behind (6 seconds between 3rd and 5th place!). Dashers own Mark Walsh finished in a fantastic 17th overall & 1st V45 in 45:21. I finished 56th in a time of 53:50, beating my 2015 effort despite the atrocious conditions up top, so I was happy with that, to be honest!
High Cup Nick...I'd heard about it, seen it on TV and done some research on the fell race itself. It sounded like a cracker, if, the weather was nice...and it was! Jonathan Stubbs had only ever said good things about this one and it really convinced me that we were in for a treat, and he was certainly right! The weather was perfect for running, apart from the odd patch of ice and snow still lying around but that just added to the late winter feel. It's a long, hard graft of a gradual uphill all the way from the start up through the valley, trudging through the ice and stream crossings, then scrambling your way up the nick itself. The reward for your hard work is spectacular (have a quick Google of "High cup nick", when you've a spare minute!).
Climbing done, view admired, time to get in descending mode (pic by Mick Kenyon, Racing Snakes)
Once the ascending is complete, you're about half way towards the finish. The second half of the race is very quick and near enough all downhill. Some technical patches but the majority is very good running terrain on paths, grass and a small section of tarmac. I still haven't seen any official results for this one but Ricky Lightfoot won the race in 1 hour 1 second, if I remember rightly and I think Tom Addison was 2nd. My watch time was 1:26 and I felt pretty good throughout, so another happy day "at the office".
Back to my favourite local racing turf, Pendle Hill. The Stan Bradshaw Pendle Round again, I ran it last year and found it really tough, this year they had to change the finishing place as the field wasn't a viable option. Pendle was covered in snow but the sun was beaming down, I finished up snow blind, a very odd experience and something I don't really want to repeat...I was worried for a day or so after as my vision was very peculiar but when I realised what it was I was kind of relieved?
Snow covered Pendle Hill for Stan's Round (pic by Woodentops)
Jack Wood pipped Carl Bell to the win, 1:12:15 & 1:12:20 respectively. A field of 205 turned out in the fantastic yet tough going conditions. Very tough on the legs and the front runners probably felt it even more as they had no beaten track to follow through the fresh snow. I finished up 105th in 1:38:32. I had a pretty decent run but the last climb got me yet again. Admittedly not as much as it did last year but it's still something I need to improve on and a spot on the course that I know I can chip some time off when I race it again next year.
Despite the blog title, I'm still yet to mention a Lake District race...but now it's the turn of Causey Pike. Me & Stu Ryder headed for Stair, near Keswick, for this ultimate classic short. A very good class of field turned up and we feared for our placing in the field when we saw the likes of Rob Jebb and again, Carl Bell, lining up, along with plenty of other quick 'uns! But, we know what fell running is like, if you finish you're applauded with the same amount of admiration as the winner or the sweeper, something worth keeping in mind!
a fantastic pair of pictures from the top of Causey Pike by Paul Dobson
The weather was very kind and the field of 62 runners had a ball. The views? Spectacular. My legs and lungs? In bits...but it was a "proper" short fell race with a brilliant descent off the side of Causey to bring you back down on to the track and home to the finish. Rob Jebb won in 34:33 with Carl Bell yet again chasing down the leader in 34:42. I was back in 47th in 56:28 and Stu recovered well from cramp half way up to finish in 59th place in 1:05:04.
I ran at Heptonstall the day after. When I say ran, I mean I got round...my time was well down and I struggled, unsurprisingly, on the various ascents...The plan in mind was to run on tired legs to build my strength in prep. for the Three Peaks...only time will tell if this worked or if it was just another daft idea of mine! The following week I ran at Rivington Pike. I've ran up there before but I've never actually done the fell race itself, in my short 16 or so months of fell racing. I wasn't a massive fan of the route to be honest, I prefer more open fells and grass but this has a lot of tarmac and is probably too quick for me at the minute as I have been concentrating on longer runs at a slower pace. I will still be doing it for years to come but more with an eye on beating my previous times, rather than an enjoyable day on the fells, as such.
The Dashers usually open the fell racing season with Rossendale's Liver Hill fell race. The weather was terrible - cold & absolutely sopping wet but all you need is your vest & Helly Hansen and you're good to go, right? 152 of us turned out in the poor conditions, another first time race for me, finishing 74th in 47:23. I was quite happy with that considering I took a heavy fall when coming back down off the fells but I managed to recover quite quickly and regain a few places that I lost. For some of the Dashers it was their first fell race, what an experience?! I hope the weather/conditions didn't put them off this fantastic sport, but, for me, it so happened to be my last fell race in the yellow of the Dashers, as my club transfer clearance came through the following day and I was all set to run in the red & white of Calder Valley on the Saturday at Pendle Hill.
cold & wet but we all love a good battle on the fells (pic by David Belshaw)
The Pendle short was up next, one I did last year in great conditions, this year, not so much, but they weren't bad conditions either - nothing in comparison to Liver Hill or Bleasdale, anyway. Me, Stu Ryder & Mark Walsh made our way over to Barley village hall, much to my surprise I received bib number 1. I'm pretty old skool when it comes to things like that and was slightly apprehensive taking number 1, as in my eyes it is "last years winner", but I guess this format has gone out of the window with so many races now available to us runners, you're not likely to see last years winner turning up at half of them! I just took it in jest as "Calder Valley race number", being race number 1 in the red & white hoops. Again I beat my time from 2015, despite conditions underfoot being tougher, another positive sign of improvement in my running, something I have got to be happy with.
ascending Pendle, number 1!!! (pic by Dave Woodhead / Woodentops)
I finished in 92nd place in 50:53. The tarmac finish I found tough on the legs again, although I obviously get more speed than on the fells but it's always hard work after coming off the soft grassy hillside. 172 ran, Sam Tosh winning, followed by the legendary Ian Holmes in 2nd place. Very misty on the tops, difficult visibility wise from the trig point but thankfully the short course gives very little in way of going wrong.
I did plan on writing up 4 more races in this post but to avoid slacking in terms of detail, I will save that for tomorrow. I have since ran Loughrigg, Coledale Horseshoe, Grisedale Grind & the Anniversary Waltz, so plenty more to talk about!
Massive thanks again to all the RO's, marshals and people who make the races happen, you give all us runners some fantastic experiences on the fells that without you, just simply wouldn't be the same! Another thanks to Mick Kenyon, Dave & Eileen Woodhead, David Belshaw and Paul Dobson for the photo's on this post. Along with the continued support from Ascendancy Apparel, my club mates and my number one "coach", my Grandad!
Thanks for reading & hopefully you'll pass by again tomorrow for the Lake District edition!