Well, I must have spent the week watching the weather forecasts. Rain, cloud, clear, blistering Sunshine, cloud, clear, chance of shower. Bloody weather forecasters should make there mind up. Chance of Showers it was to be.
With an early start to pickup Chris and Al Fowler the sky had a mist in it that looked like it would clear. Chris had drove up from London just for the race and was planning to go back down just after the race, he's a bit mad really but dedicated all the same, particularly after flying up to Fort William just to do the Ben race and then fly back down, spending only 5 hours in Fort William.
During this week I had convinced myself I was ready for this race even if it was cloudy and he sort of memorised the routes I had done on previous recce's. The only chance I wasn't going to run was if the wind and rain were battering down. If that happened then I wouldn't have enjoyed the race so would have opted out. But thankfully the forecasters had not ordered the wind and only a little rain.
When we collected Al Fowler, the first thing he did was pay me for the journey. On previous outings I hadn't taken any money from him for the journey so this time he'd decided to pay me in M&M's. I loved peanut M&M's but they don't do my athletic figure any good. I think he was threatened by me and needed me at a disadvantage!
We arrived at Little Langdale at about 10:30, after crawling along the Coniston road behind someone towing a bl00dy yacht, and was parked right next to the gate. There was a good turn out for the race and the field was packed. Registration done I called at the Pete Bland van to top up on Energy Gels. My plan was to take 4 Gels with me and use them all. I also brought 1.5 litres of water in my bladder and had a couple of Nuun tablets to help take on the water better. Albert likes to call me for wearing too much clothes but today it was about the amount of water I was carrying. "Just drink out of streams!", "No!". However thinking I had brought possibly a little to much water I did decide to empty a little out and then dropped in two Nuun tables (Lemon & Lime). So 4 gels in the bag, Map, compass, race map, 1 litre of water, two tangerines, waterproof top and pants, Helly on, Fell shoes on, GPS tracking set. Sorted. Ready for the off! But forgot to Vaseline my feet though but luckily that didn't cause me any problems!
I'm not going to go into a full route description as I have done that twice now so I'll try and pick out bits.
At around 11Am the runners packed the road and off the race started, the first hurdle was the ford crossing. The bridge is now unsafe and only allows 2 people at a time to cross (Yes it only allows it, it says "Hey you, get off, only two at a time!") so we had been told that all runners were to cross through the ford. God that water was cold. I think this should be made compulsory from now on as it gives the race an extra little bit of character.
Whilst climbing the path to Wetherlam I was keen to identify if I had chosen the right line on the previous recce of the route and for the most part I had. During today's climb though there was a CFR lady that was struggling with the first climb. I'd heard her struggling behind me for some 10 mins as we approached the clagg that was covering the top 1/3rd of the mountain. As she came along side me, pausing occasionally she looked like she was about to burst into tears. I felt a little sorry for her really at that point as 50 mins into a 3-4hr race is not the time to be in tears! I tried to give her a little encouragement even suggesting the peak couldn't be too far away but to be honest I thought we still had another 20-25mins of uphill ahead of us. Luckily though the peak was only 15 mins away and already we heard some other runners saying that they were retiring. I sort of wondered if the lady would be retiring too, however as I headed of the peak towards Swirl How, Barbara (as she had now introduced herself) came up behind me and asked if I minded her running along with me. She also asked if I knew where I was going and I was happy to say I felt "confident" even with the quite thick mist hanging around.
Barbara only needed a little more encouragement as we approached the peak of Swirl How but it was coming off here that the mist seemed to thicken and I started to worry a little. I was happy knowing that I needed to contour, off path, but very conscious I didn't want to head to far left and down into the valley. However it seems I did a good job and picked up the path back down from Great Carrs and finding the, by now, well trodden route to three Shires stone. As we came out of the clagg I could see down towards the Three Shires Stone but there was still some cloud hanging around and I could by now see the peak of Blisco peeping out from above the cloud. I started to wonder if I would still be able to navigate of Blisco in the mist.
My main target before the race was to get the the Stone in the 2 hour time limit. When I reached the top of Wetherlam in 1:05hr I knew I was 10 mins quicker so was on course to get to the stone in 2hrs. I was surprised though when I actually reached the cut-off in 1:50 mins. The decent down to the checkpoint had been a good one and not as rocky as I had thought it was going to be.
It was only at the start of this climb up to Blisco that I decided to take my first, and only, energy gel of the race, Barbara also took the opportunity to take on water and a gel and we also nicked a few jelly babies from a supporter. I also now only noticed that it was raining, not heavy enough to get the waterproofs though. As I climbed, I turned and looked back to noticed a trail of runners behind me. I was convinced we weren't that far from the back of the pack and didn't really get how we had got in front of so many. I started to think that I had just made a good route choice coming off Swirl How but then I later found out that a pack of about 30 runners had gone too far left and ended up further down the valley, only just making it through the checkpoint. Barbara stuck with me on my route choices, despite others now taking slightly different lines up to Blisco. The cloud had cleared here though and I could see the peak up ahead for most of the climb.
Blisco was a little busy now with all the other runners playing catch up and over taking us but we kept going, offering each other encouragement all the way down off Blisco. Again I took slightly different lines to the rest of the pack but came out right on the Stile leading through the bracken to Blea Tarn. I saw Daztheslug just heading down the right hand side of the wall. I chose to stick to the normal path and the (by now) slippy well trodden route down.
As we approached Blea Tarn, I made a point of telling Barbara to watch her footing. Then, just coming through the woods I took a tumble and at EXACTLY the same time, few meters behind me so did my new running mate! I tried to get my footing (imagine something akin to a cartoon character sliding on ice with arms and legs flying all over the place) but in the end I hit the deck (My first proper fall in fell running). My body not being content with a little pain from the fall, it decided to cramp up my right leg also. So there I lay in the woods, my leg in spasm, my other leg now stinging, wondering "...what the F*** was I doing". Barbara got to her feet and came over to help me. The spasm eased and a friendly hand helped my up to my feet and off we trotted as if it hadn't happened.
Quite tired by this point now my water had also started to run out, I knew I should have brought more, but I will listen to others!! As we crossed the road though after Blea Tarn there was a wonderful sign, something like "Drink station ahead". Great, I could get a top up before the last climb. I crossed the cattle grid to find..... an empty road . Never mind!
My climb up Lingmoor was slow and without water to wash down the gels I didn't really want to take on another. Barbara offered me a cereal bar and I offered her a Tangerine. The cereal bar went down well and I need to remember to pack one of those myself for the next big race I do. Plus, the gels take a bit to get into your system, and this last climb is not that long. My pace now was slow, I think this was more fatigue than the running out of water and I started to flag behind Barbara now and I told her to head off but she insisted on waiting for me. Thankfully though one of the marshalls on Lingmoor gave us some water and with potentially no more climbing left I managed to pickup my pace just a tad on the descent to the finish. The marshall did try to explain where the runners path was but we ended up on the tourist path but that was fine as we were not going to be beating any records this year.
Running on the downhills wasn't too bad as my weight carries me a little but when I got onto the flat, my legs had NOTHING left in them at all. Anyway, we crossed the line in 3hr 39 mins and I was very happy with that time and was also happy to collapse beside the finish line.
I was just looking forward to one of the hot pasties Chris had told me about after crossing the line, only to be told when I got to the table that they had just run out. I was gonna have a moan here about runners that go back multiple times for food, taking no consideration of the runners that are still out, but what's the point?
So with a cup of tea and a muffin in hand I watched the presentation and won me a spot prize of a bottle of wine. I don't actually drink wine but it'll do for a Xmas/birthday present for someone though. After the presentation as the cars started to leave the field Chris and I took the chance to grab another cup of tea before the drive home. Thankfully one of the girls from the pub came out with a small tray of pasties and I ran to the table to get one. They were great!
Thanks to all for organising and marshalling. But most of all thanks to Al Fowlup for bringing me 4 BIG bags of Peanut M&M's!
Al Fowler finished in 58th: 2:24:29
Chris finished in 132: 2:46:50
I finished in 262: 3:39:40
All were PB's!
Well done everyone, see you next time!