Monday, 7 February 2011

Cardingmill Canter - 05/02/2010

Flat out sprint 200m from the finish
(Some real effort for once)
Photo courtesy John Richards (
The Cardingmill Canter (5.4 miles, 2,050') is the mother of all AS fell races, at least in Shropshire it is. There are less than 2.5 miles of rougly flat or sensibly graded downhill running. The rest is steep or very steep uphills, and there's a vertical (nearly descent) off the last hill. This means it's as much a test of will as it is of speed.

I had a recce last week (see notes here), and so I knew exactly what I was getting into. I ran 72:23 on the recce and so I was aiming for a sub 65 minute time. I reckon the best tactics for me right now are to go off fairly hard from the start and up the first hill (90% effort) and then to try to hold my place - this gives me more incentive to keep running: this was the plan for the Canter.

I didn't have a lot of time at the start after I'd jogged up from town (1.1 miles, 80') and registered, but was just about ready by the time Charlie was giving us the starter's instructions. It was really windy, coming from the south, so the first half of the route would be not too bad, but the rest was going to be pretty grim.

I started a little too far back but made up a few places on the road and the lower slopes of Calf Ridge before slotting in behind Rick Robson, who's usually a bit quicker than me. I got to the top of Calf Ridge in good shape but the first couple of hundred yards on the traverse round the lip of New Pool Hollow were a bit slow. I had a good run from the road crossing across Devil's Mouth and to the top of Burway Hill, only walking very briefly on the steep ascent round Devil's Mouth. I took the descent of Burway Hill fairly full on, passing a couple of people, but struggled to get any pace on the short section of path after the road, before dropping down into the bottom of Cardingmill Valley and crossing the stream.

Dropping down into Cardingmill Valley to cross the stream
Photo courtesy John Richards (
I was pretty out of breath and tired as I started up the track towards Stanyeld and Keith Richards and a couple of other runners came past me as I toiled up the path. I climbed the steep section quite well, catching the guy in front of me, and was able to run near the top, keeping Keith and his group within about 20 yards. You don't get much flat here and the wind was blowing me into the golf course fence, but I pushed on and started the next climb, which is nearly as steep, up to Bodbury Ring. At the top there's a turn to the right (north) and the wind pushed me along here really fast. The climb to Haddon Hill was an endless drag though, moving across the wind. I tried three times on the gentler final slope to get running but couldn't in the wind. Just beyond the top, the route dives down a very steep gully to join Mott's Road, losing 200m of altitude in only 250m horizontally. Usually you roll over the top and try to keep the brakes off, but the wind was blowing hard up the gully, and I had to run the first 20m or so of the descent hard to make any progress.

I took it steady down here, letting one guy fly past me, but was fresh enough when I hit Mott's Road to kick hard for home. It's about 800m to the finish from here on a stony track but I FLEW! I passed the guy who'd overtaken me in the gully quickly, and would have caught Gary G in front of me if I'd had another 200 yards at the end! I was trying as hard as the picture up top suggests! I was very glad to reach the finish though, and even two days later, critically assessing my performance, I think it was close to as fast as I could have gone in the conditions.

Race profile based on digital elevation model (DEM)
I finished in 61:13, way ahead of my 65 minute target despite the challenging conditions. And I was even more satisfied to see that I ran a 74% score, my best yet in a true fell race. This will give me a decent series score for the winter with 68% - 70% - 74% (Breiddens - Wrecker - Canter) for a 212% total. I won't score well in the LMV because no-one ever does (and the leaders will be faster than usual because it's an English Champs race), and I can't do the Wrekin Fell Race because it's on the same day as the Edale Skyline. I'm pleased I made the most of my last chance to get a decent score in the series.

I met up with Lightning and Methuselah again, and also was pleased to see Richard Sheppard, who finished not long behind me. The marshalls were amazing, particularly those who were exposed on the ridges - thanks to Dave Nicholls and all his team.

Yours Truly and Richard Sheppard at the finish
(Thanks to whoever it was that took the photo for me)
After the race and presentations I had a little jog up the ridge between Bodbury and Haddon, dropping down from Bodbury Ring through the golf course into Cwmdale and back to the car via Madeira Walk (2.1 miles, 590').

Today's total distance was 8.6 miles and the ascent was 2,720'.  The weekly totals were 22.1 miles and 5,570' of ascent (mileage down because the race meant I didn't get a long run in this week - but there will be two next week!!). The running four weekly total has mileage down 6 miles to 101.7 miles, but climbing up 610' to 22,800'.


  1. Great account and a great effort Jim! Looks like a good day...

  2. Nice work Jim.
    See you at the Valleys