|In the lead group, traversing after SC2|
The SSC is a Marches Area LDWA event which has a very strong following amongst local fell runners. Noel, Sandy and Terry had all raved about it, so I was pleased to remember to get an entry in on time and have a place for this year's event. The format uses a different area each year, with the route only being disclosed on the morning of the event. Each participant is given a route card with directions when registering. This also has the locations of each checkpoint on it. This year there were eight, six self clips (orienteering style checkpoints) and two manned checkpoints with water and sustenance.
The 25 mile / 3,600' course started from Cleobury North and took in a lovely traverse around the north end of Brown Clee and then up to the summit, then a further traverse under Abdon Burf down to the main road. Crossing this, the route up Titterstone Clee (there was a faster going around the hill option, but no self respecting fell runner would do that, would they?). A fast descent down to Cleeton St Mary led to a rolling section through fields and farmyards and on to the second manned checkpoint. From here a steady climb would take us to the top of Abdon Burf, and then down a beautiful descent, both picturesque and fantastic running, and a tough level 2km road section before the final drop back to Cleobury North and the finish.
I had a good start, feeling strong, and ran with the lead group until the first manned checkpoint. A quick bottle fill here saw me away as the front runner - something which has NEVER happened to me before in an event. I managed to hold on for at least a mile before the ultimate winner (or at least the guy who was first home - it's not a race) passed me as we moved onto the open hillside. Nigel Glaze and I navigated off the top together, and located the next self clip fairly easily, but we got caught by a couple of clever folk who spotted that the "around" option was going to be quicker than the "up and over". Never mind, it was a great view...
|Walking to the start with Terry Davies (pic by Em)|
|10 yards to SC2 at the top of Brown Clee - Lawrie Jones in front|
|Descending from CP2 - thanks to everyone coming up who|
gave me a shout.
|Weirdly finding myself in the lead, I thought I'd better take a pic for the|
record. On Callow Lane after CP1.
|Arriving at the top of Titterstone Clee, a few seconds before Nigel Glaze.|
A short bit of disused road led to a rough boggy moorland section and the descent to Cleeton St Mary. The others from the lead group started to pass me here, and my poor patch continued across fields as I dropped off the back of the group, only to be saved when everyone went the wrong way at a farm about a mile short of CP2. This brought the field back together and helped me as I lost only a minute or two when some lost four or five. They soon pulled away on the farm track though, and by CP2 must have had a couple of minutes. I got some energy on board, refilled the bottle quickly and got going, although it was slow going...
|Just after the farm where we all got a bit lost!|
This spurred me on and I climbed fairly hard right the way to the top, catching a guy called Richard who'd come up from Wiltshire to run, and nearly catching my friend Adrian Donnelly. On the way off the top I could see Noel, JT, and Dawsy too, maybe 300m ahead. I followed Adrian down to a lovely grassy descent through landscaped parkland, and flew this, passing Ad after a bit. There was a sting in the tail as the route cut left onto a fairly level tarmac estate road, Ad got a better line onto it, came out 50 yards in front, and I had jelly where my legs should have been. I kept pushing on, but the jelly was turning to lead, and I just couldn't catch him. However I held Richard off and ended up finishing in 4:32.
|Twenty yards to go! (pic by Em)|
|JT, Noel and Dawsy coming in to finish. (pic by Em)|
As I handed my tally over to the finish officials, I looked around and was very surprised to see so few people "home". In fact I was told I'd finished 7th. There was no sign of my three mates who'd been ahead of me at the top. Richard arrived shortly after me, then Noel, JT and Dawsy - they'd had a nav nightmare on the way down from Abdon Burf.
Anyway I had an unexpectedly good result after a poor third quarter to the event, but I've learned something: you have to get in a good position in the race, but not to panic when things don't go so well because if you keep pushing on as best you can, things sometime go badly for other folk as well, and at different times. You have to be there and thereabouts to capitalise though...