Monthly Archives: May 2017

My First Three Peaks….

My First 3 Peaks

I was entered to run this iconic race back in 2013 and naively thought that the arrival of our daughter at the end of February wouldn’t make any difference to my training… yes, well anyone with children will know that was never going to work! So 4 years later here I was, lined up with the good and the great, ready to see if I had what it took.

I’ve done a few longer events over the last 6 months (TdH and Haworth Hobble) so the distance wasn’t the issue, but I’m not really a ‘fell racer’ and knew that for me, the speed was going to be my biggest challenge.

So on the day conditions couldn’t have been better, very dry underfoot, nice temperature, cloud rather than full sun and not too windy. OK, so no weather excuses then!

Quick kit check, safety briefing and then into position… and we’re off. Shuffle out of the field and then through Horton, hundreds of runners filling the road ahead of me in a scene reminiscent of a city marathon rather than one of my local fell races. Wow, what an event! Turn left and onto the track up Pen-y-Ghent and nice to see a few familiar faces cheering us on already.

Pen-y-Ghent to Ribblehead
I’ve been up here countless times but it never seems to get any easier. I started off just behind Julia but soon couldn’t keep up with her and that was the last I saw of her (well done on a great time btw). ‘Just go at my own pace’ was my mantra for now, there’s still a long way to go! 33 minutes in and here come the leaders, thundering back down the track that I’m huffing and puffing my way up… how do they do it? Tom Owen followed by Ricky Lightfoot and a steady stream of elite runners. Back to the grind. I reach the finger post and start running again and before I know it I’m dibbing in on the summit (00:49:04) and heading along the wall with the others. Despite my lack of climbing prowess I seem to be quite good at coming down and find myself flying past a good number of more cautious runner. I’m sure they’ll catch me later but for now…

 

I get to the bottom in no time, a few more familiar faces cheering me on and now it’s focus on keeping a good pace to make sure I’m within the dreaded cut off times. I soon catch up to Richard Timms, we run along chatting for a while until a laps in concentration and I trip over a rock and hit the ground. That would have been an embarrassing end to my 3 Peaks career! Dust myself off, back up and soon I pass High Birkwith (01:26:14) and plod on towards Ribblehead. I meet Carmel, catch Richard again (we yo-yo all day) and then hit the road. I hate road running at the best of times but right now I enjoy it even less. I’m keeping an eye on the clock and I’m going to make it to the next check point in time, but this short stretch on tarmac just seems to drag on. Before I know it I round the corner to Ribblehead, crowds and a tannoy announcing my arrival (01:58:05). Friends and family are waiting with supplies and words of encouragement, a quick stop and I’m off again. Having never done this race before I’m slightly nervous about the ‘climb’ to come.

Restocking at Hill Inn

Whernside
Everyone says what a beast the climb up Whernside is, and it didn’t disappoint! I’ve run up Whernside pretty much every way possible in the past but that top section, new to me and on tired legs, is an absolute brute. All four points of contact and every ounce of energy used, expletives and heavy breathing fill the air from all my fellow competitors. The shouts of ‘you’re almost there’ not making any of us feel any better until at last the hell is over and we’ve made it to the top (02:51:55). Wow, that really took it out of me! I don’t usually suffer from cramp but now it was hitting me with full force, stopping me in my tracks. How frustrating. For the next 10 minutes it was run, cramp, stop, stretch, repeat. Eventually it starts to pass and I ‘m back to running. I’m really familiar with the route down, and with gravity on my side I once again start making up lost places. Out onto the road and there was Annie with Mike and family, a quick hello and on to the Hill Inn. I was going to make it, no bus of shame for me today.

The Hill Inn reached (03:20:07) and the pressure is off. Another quick stop to replenish water and food (thanks support team!) and then it’s the last big climb of the day.

coming in to Hill Inn

Ingleborough
I do this climb regularly so I knew exactly what was to come. Walk, jog, walk and I catch up with Steve. Both of us are feeling it by now but keep ploughing on. Anyone who’s done this race knows just how hard this climb is at this stage; regardless of how fast or fit you are. So it’s head down and a slow grind upwards. By now there are almost as many 3 Peaks walkers mixed in with the runners and the steep section sees a bit of a traffic jam. To be honest it’s a welcome relief to go so slowly now. Half way up another familiar face (Pete Ellwood) provides some welcome words of encouragement and a swig of water… I’m finding this very hard now. More Harriers cheering me on and the summit is finally reached (04:18:01).

Now for the run off Ingleborough back to Horton. As soon as I start to run the cramp hits again big time. Ouch! Run, cramp, stop, stretch, it’s a repeat of Whernside for another 10 minutes. Steve runs past and disappears off in the distance, John Oz says hello and then I’m trotting off down the rocky track on very tired legs. It’s a long 5 miles back but soon enough the welcome site of the marquee comes into view and I know I’m almost there. I catch up with Richard and push on, knowing I’m almost there has given me a second wind. Under the railway, cross the road and I’m in the finish funnel to shouts and cheers and I’ve done it. My first 3 Peaks fell Race completed in 05:11:41 What a great day!

* A massive thank you to all the Harriers who made the effort to come out and support all of us runners. It certainly gave me a huge lift to see you all. And an even bigger thank you to Sally and Edie and the Rogerson clan for being my support crew on the day.

[David Alexander]

Coniston Fell Race (Roger Laycock)

Coniston Fell Race
What a cracking race! Steep climbs, fast descents, rocky technical sections great views and excellent cakes at the finish. Perfect! No wonder Matt Fretwell chose this as a first attempt at a longer race; apparently he’d never done anything as long as this 9 mile, 3,500ft classic. Hard to believe for such a good runner who seems to have been having good results with the Harriers for years. Any lack of experience certainly didn’t show and hardly seemed to hold him back as he blasted round in 1 hour 20 minutes, finishing 19th, (from 200+) not far off the front runners and that despite suffering blisters on the long, long final descent off the last checkpoint on the Old Man. An excellent result. Well done Matt.

It felt chilly in the valley before the start, but except for a stiff breeze on Swirl How, the second checkpoint, conditions were perfect. Dry underfoot, clear enough to enjoy the tremendous views into the Lakes and down the coast South of Black Combe; vest and shorts weather with just enough sun to work on a tan. It doesn’t get much better in the Lakes in April- well most times really.

My legs were still surprisingly weary from a three day run along the GR221 in Mallorca (150km and plenty of climbing), an equally excellent, but very different route, the previous week.( If you fancy doing it, let me know). For those who’ve done the Three Shires and know the joys of the first climb up Wetherlam, Consiton too packs much of its ascent into the pull up to the first Checkpoint on the summit. Not quite as brutal as the thigh burning slog from the Langdale side, but the height gained is no less demanding with a lung busting steep start, hands on thighs (for me anyway) for the first half mile and then a long, long trog up to the top. Sometimes tussocks, more often rocky, craggy paths needing concentration, reaching the summit doesn’t come soon enough for those of us who prefer downhill!

The run out to the second marshal at Swirl How is just the same as the Three Shires route with some scope for canny route choice and fast. In perfect conditions a great little section and chance to get air back in the lungs and run with ease. In clag, a different prospect with plenty of scope to go off exploring- I’ve been tempted before! The need not to make a larger and surprisingly easy error, going the wrong way off Swirl How, heading for Wrynose and not South towards Coniston Old Man, forgetting which race your in seems crazy. How could anyone mistake North for South, up for down, but apparently in poor conditions many do. Not this time, with a colourful string of vests setting out the good running route ahead, though sadly Matt, in his high-viz Harriers strip was long gone. (Does anyone actually like our health & safety inspired, luminous green, ‘look at me’, club colours?-just thought I’d ask- on behalf of quiet a few others).

Anyway……there are a few sections overall where route choice can make a small difference before the final run off the Old Man, but the best options from the summit do make quite a difference. I played safe, not knowing the best way off and took the direct line; straight down towards and through the old quarries. Picking a line, trying to maximise running on grass was great fun. Jumping off small outcrops, leaping boulders, taking the brakes off to chase down the runners in front. I managed to pass a few who were less reckless than me, but sadly lacked the speed on the last half mile down the old mine road (more sessions with Andy & Carole needed) to hold them off. Being overtaken by runners I think I’ve already passed for good, takes miles out of my legs. Those that knew the best line appeared out of nowhere, having gained lots of ground on people like me who hadn’t run or reccied it recently. Even more demoralising; they’re in front , but made less effort getting there! A great descent, fast (it’s all relative) furious thigh burning fun.

Coniston is a super race, similar to Fairfield and Kentmere (which I know quite a few Harriers have done) in the type of running and ‘feel’ of the race; classic Lakeland days out. Challenging, but not intimidating, something for everyone, great fun and great atmosphere, oh and great cakes, (or have I already mentioned that?!) Sadly, it usually clashes with the 3 Peaks, which means many Harriers don’t really look at doing it, but if you fancy a change from running a fell route on road, path and pavement, give it a go. You’ll love it!

Roger