Thursday, 25 August 2011

Sedbergh Hills Race - 21/08/2011

Ascending to CP2 - photo courtesy of Pete Douglas
Sedbergh Hills was the third race in the British fellrunning championship and the sixth and final race in the English champs. With Mel well placed in both competitions, Em, JT and I decided to go up and run to support her. We brought Andy D up too - he's been doing well in the V40 category. There were a total of 16 Mercia runners in the field of around 360, and we put four lady runners out which would give us a good chance of improving our points total in the ladies team competition.

The race route is another of those triumphs of course planning with a long but generally not overly steep ascent to Arant Haw (CP1) to start with, followed by a run off down the west ridge and a sharp climb to Castley Knotts (CP2). From here the route follows a rising contour along the western edge of the Howgills north for 4km before turning east at CP3 and heading over a series of three cols, each with 100m to 200m ascent. You then drop down into Bowderdale (CP4) and start the long steady 300m climb to The Calf (CP5). A short flatter section should lead to a trod bypassing the top of Calders and then a long gentle descent towards Winder (CP6) with a short climb in the middle passing under Arant Haw. From Winder it's a steep descent down bracken slopes to Lockbank Farm and 300m of road to the finish.

I had a good start and reached Arant Haw in about 27 minutes, just behind Kim and ahead of Sheila. Andy H from Wharfedale (met him at 3 Peaks) took some pic of the field on the first part of the ascent and you can see a few of us marked...
Me and JT in the crowd on the first ascent (annotated)
Photo courtesy Andy Holden (Wharfeego)

Me, Em (yellow vests) and JT in the oval on the way up towards Arant Haw
Photo courtesy Andy Holden (Wharfeego)
I had a good descent for the first mile or so, staying high to make use of the path to start with. I dropped down to the traversing line many others were taking and this proved to be a mistake. My x-Talons are getting quite worn and I slipped once, then got going again, then had a much bigger fall, resulting in a sprained ankle (although at the time all I knew was that it *** hurt). I picked myself up and hobbled on down to the start of the climb to CP2.

Fortunately the lack of ankle stability didn't matter on the climb to Castley Knotts and that got me going again. I passed a few of the 40 or so folk who'd overtaken me while I was picking my way down from the fall, and then managed to get running after a fashion and only lost a few more places on the traversing paths through to CP3. By now I was pretty much committed to going on and finishing - it was nearly as far back as on to the end.

On the climbs up over the Docker Knott and Simon's Seat cols I could hear JT behind me - he was running with Em and making sure she got enough food and fluid on board on her first AL race. They eventually caught me on the way down from Simon's Seat into Langdale. JT and I looked at the ankle but there wasn't much we could do - John's first aid kit consisted of some micropore and the mandatory half used elastoplast. I tightened the laces on my shoes, grabbed some water and set to climbing the long slope that separated me from CP4. I passed Em on the climb, and JT dropped back again with her. On the descent I really struggled, having to do most of it on my backside. By the time I got down to the checkpoint John and Em were in front.

The next leg is the long steady climb to the Calf, which is on a reasonable path. I'd have run a lot of this if the ankle had been ok, but at least I managed to catch and encourage Em. She left me a few hundred yards short of the top where the ground flattened out and she could start to run, going on to take a sensible navigation option and stick with the main path over Calders and finish in a very respectable 3:33.

I ground my way up to the top and the penultimate checkpoint, then made a really stupid nav error by following someone down the side path which goes left down the west ridge of Bram Rigg Top. I'd forgotten about this being before the Calders trod. It cost me half a mile of rough contouring around a steep corrie under Calders and about 100m of "bonus" ascent, I guess 10 to 15 minutes. Anyway I did get back on the path in the end, and then had to just very gently jog down and past Arant Haw, being passed by other runners all the time now. I passed a few on the way up Winder, keeping to the same slow jog, but lost those places again as soon as the final descent started. It took an age to get down a slope I'd normally bomb down, and the road section was pretty horrible too.

I turned into the field and finished in 3:57, probably about 40 minutes longer than I'd have taken without the injury and the navigation error. We'll see next year - I'll be back. I felt strong, apart from the buggered ankle, and had a great but frustrating day out.

Thanks to all the Mercia guys who hung around and cheered me as I hobbled in! That meant a lot. I'll be putting an item up on the Mercia website shortly with details of how everyone else went on, but Mel had a great run, improved on her points from Duddon and finished fourth equal in the English champs in her first serious year of competition. Kim finished second in the LV55 competition having come second behind the awesome Wendy Dodd in every counting race! Well done to both, and to the boys who added a good team third, with the Davies brothers both in the top ten...

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