This is the 2nd time I’ve ran this race, last year being the first which I really enjoyed despite losing a fair amount of time trying to find the 2nd checkpoint in near whiteout conditions.
The race is a 4 leg relay in the lake district with 2 runners on each leg, distances ranging from 4.5 – 7.5 miles over technical mountain terrain starting and finishing in Patterdale.
This year I was running the 2nd leg with Fred which I was pleased about because it was a different leg to the one I did last year, and I knew Fred would keep us right on the navigation front as he has done the race many times before and is a very experienced mountain runner.
My main concern going into the race was an ankle injury I sustained a few weeks ago which hasn’t completely healed and as I’m running the York marathon next week I didn’t want to make it any worse.
The forecast wasn’t too bad, predicting 80% chance of mist free summits. Unfortunately the 20% prevailed until the race had finished and some of the previously obscured tops showed their faces.
Jonny and Iain were running the first leg and set off in reasonably good conditions at that point. As the rest of us squashed into Keith’s car to meet them at the first transition in Hartsop we could see the line of runners steadily ascending the first climb up to Angle Tarn.
There wasn’t much of a chance to warm up before Jonny and Iain came belting down the steep descent and me and Fred set off.
The first section is a moderate climb on easy runnable tracks. Fred then took us on a different more direct line than the rest of the runners as we hit steeper ground up the the summit of The Knott. We then disappeared into the mist which lasted the rest of the run.
As we reached the top of the ridge the wind stepped up, although thankfully the rain held off and it wasn’t particularly cold as long as we kept moving.
The ground then flattened off which made for some fast running over the top of High Street until we reached the first descent and Fred started pulling away. The ground wasn’t particularly technical but I still felt apprehensive about going full out with my dodgy ankle and impending marathon (that’s my excuse anyway and I’m sticking to it).
Then another ascent to the summit of Stony Cove Pike followed involving a bit of scrambling which I always enjoy. The next checkpoint is just past this next to a small tarn and Fred took a bearing to and we followed alongside another pair of runners. It became apparent however pretty soon that we were slightly off and another pair of runners emerged out of the mist from another direction in search of the same checkpoint.
In clear conditions this would be almost trivial, however the poor visibility and the fact that the checkpoint was unmanned made the search more challenging and we spent 3-4 minutes floundering in the mist.
Then shouts of ‘over here’ saw our band of 6 runners almost sprint in the direction of the previously unseen tarn and were swell to about 20, runners coming from all directions reminiscent of a zombie chase scene from 28 days later.
Another descent followed with Fred leading the way and shouting encouragement to me following behind before we reached the changeover at Kirkstone Pass.
Ged and Graeme picked up the baton (dibber) and we watched them on ascend into the mist on red screes before jumping into the car back to the next transition at Syke Farm campsite.
On reflection of my performance on the was down I was a little disappointed that I hadn’t pushed a bit harder on the descent as Fred was always a fair bit in front of me and I didn’t feel like the run had taken much out of me, but on a positive note my ankle had held out and I hadn’t (hopefully) compromised my chances of putting in a good performance in York next week which has been my “A” race this year.
Jonny also drew on his knowledge gained from his Sports Science degree to offer a highly thought out and technical view of the tricky art of descending : “you basically just have to disengage your brain…”.
I didn’t think he was far wrong.
After a quick change and refuel we were at the next transition waiting for Fred and Graeme.
An hour went by, then 1-15,1-20, 1-25, 1-30 and still no sign of them. The remaining runners were gearing up for a mass start and it became apparent that either they had got lost in the mist, or one of them had had an accident – hopefully the former.
Keith and Phil set off in the mass start and we continued to wait for ged and Graeme’s arrival.
Then, finally they emerged – tearing down the steep descent and reaching the transition to be told Keith and Phil has left as few minutes before.
It turned out they had difficulty finding the second checkpoint in the mist and went badly off course, losing a fair amount of time in the process.
This was the same checkpoint me and Ged lost over 10 minutes the year before trying to find and there was much amusement and banter to be had over this. They both took it in good jest and most importantly they had made it back safe and sound.
We drove back to the start, fuelled up on bacon butties and cake before awaiting Keith and Phil’s arrival which came pretty quickly, them having made up a good amount of time and places on the final leg.
After a quick change we were off the the pub (Travellers rest in Patterdale) for a swift pint of the local ale and presentation of the glass coasters you receive for competing in the race.
Overall then a great days running and some good crack with the lads. Roll on next year.
Oh, and race captain make sure you give Ged a different leg next time 🙂