|That's me nearest the camera, just starting to move a bit about a third of|
the way round the Sedbergh race - thanks to Ian Charters for the photo
June, July and August have been geared (as far as possible given everything else going on) to preparation for the CCC (Courmayer-Champex-Chamonix) Race which is on the undercard to the UTMB. I've not been able to do as many long runs as I'd like, but highlights have been the Callow Race (short but brutally steep) and the Wenlock Olympian Walk. I was also honoured to be able to carry the baton in the Endurancelife Real Relay which followed (and caught) the Olympic Torch, only the Real Relay only resorted to mechanised transport for ferry crossings and went 24/7 for several weeks.
My final weekend of prep for the CCC was spent in the Howgills, racing the English Championship Fell Race at Weasdale on the Saturday, and then doubling up to do the Sedbergh Hills race on the Sunday. A description of the 2011 Sedbergh Hills race is here: http://midlands-fell.blogspot.co.uk/2011/08/sedbergh-hills-race-21082011.html
Anyway, I drove up on Saturday morning for the Weasdale Race which was a 2.30pm start, arriving as the ladies were about half way round on their 12:30 start.
The race is held as part of the local village show, complete with sheepdog trials and outsized veg competitions. It was obviously going to be a wet one judging by the state of the show field, and my suspicions were confirmed as the first ladies started to come in covered in mud. Mercia was represented by Fannie, Mel, Naomi and Ros, all of whom seemed to have done very well. It might have been a bit of a tough introduction to UK fell running for Fannie who is a Hungarian orienteer but joined Mercia a while ago as her boyfriend is a long standing member.
The mens race started with a great cavalry charge down the event field and onto a short road section before dropping down to go under the A685 in a half flooded sheep culvert. From here on there was about a mile of gently climbing and very boggy rough ground to cross another road near a farm and gain the open hillside. The first climb was tough but mostly runnable, although I felt I couldn't get going and found myself further down the field than I'd have liked. At the top we had a great view across into Bowderdale, and I decided to get my head up and enjoy being out in the fells, and back off a little - no point in injuring myself on a day when it just wasn't happening, with a big event coming up.
The view was great, and so was the short descent to Leathgill Bridge (actually a col) which led on to the only hiking climb of the race, to the summit of Randygill Top. From here a flat mile to the trig point on Green Bell should have been very fast but I still couldn't get myself going and enjoyed the view occasionally on a 80 to 90% effort level. I fared no better on the long descent over Stwarth back to the road, but I did manage to pick up a couple of places on the run back through the boggy section, and a couple in the finishing field, which was a tough uphill 200 yards.
The time was ok for a tempo run I suppose, and I didn't injure myself although having been flat all day I did spend a couple of hours afterwards wondering whether doing Sedbergh would be a good idea or not.
Anyway after a couple of drinks with Pete, Ros, Tom and Naomi, and a meal, bed at the excellent Takoda campsite in Kirkby Stephen and a good night's sleep in my compression socks resulted in a much fresher feeling me the next morning.
I managed to scrape together something resembling breakfast (bowl of muesli with hastily purched pint of milk after my flask had curdled another pint, Dairylea Dunkers x 2 and a couple of cups of tea on the camping stove in the square in Kirkby Stephen), and headed over to Sedbergh. It was a lovely morning and a nice drive. I parked up and wandered up to the registration at about ten. I think numbers were a bit up on normal because of the previous day's race (I saw several people who were doubling up including Fannie) and also because Sedbergh had been a champs race the previous year. Pete Bland's van was in attendance but I resisted temptation.
I started the race fairly steadily and generally held position through the Arant Haw section and up to Castley Knotts (except a quick pee and laces stop by the sheepfold when Wendy Dodds came screaming past never to be seen again). I really did hold back along the traversing sections, content to hold my place within a group which was making steady progress but not taxing me. As I got to the steep stuff at the northern end of the course started, the rain also started. I'd been a bit warm but suddenly I realised I was quite cold and so I decided to push on rather than stopping to gear up. I really got moving nicely, and started to descend a bit more aggressively as I realised I might be able to make a decent time despite the steady start. I pushed hard up the long climb to the Calf, running some sections as the path traversed out of Bowderdale, then really got going as the route crossed the 600m contour, running hard to and over the Calf.
This year I was forewarned about the need to take the second trod to the right and got the Calders cut off spot on. This was a really good section of narrow path, traversing across the top of a steep rocky corrie. I picked the fence corner below Calders up and set off on a long fast descent. Even the 140' of climbing over the shoulder of Arant Haw didn't slow me down too much: I felt like I was really on a roll, unlike last year when I was limping in with the backmarkers.
I felt strong enough to run much of the gentle climb to the top of Winder, passing a few more runners, then got stuck in to the excellent grassy descent. My well worn x-Talons didn't have a great deal of grip on the by-now very wet grass and I do admit to doing 50m of this descent on my arse. I passed another couple of runners here, then hit the wall at the bottom and had my only nav moment of the race when I wasn't quite sure which way to go. I lost a few seconds trying to work it out before I heard a couple of supporters (maybe they were marshalls) shouting me from the left. A hundred yards along the wall was the gate, then it was out onto the farm track and then the road in full flight after a sub 3:15 finish.
A hard effort on the road and I finally made it into the field and through the finish (someone told me to stop running which was a good thing) in 3:14:something. I'm well happy with that given the deliberately very steady start.
I'd doubled up, done nearly 7,000' of climbing at something approaching race speed over the weekend and felt ready for the CCC, so job done from the point of view of a tune-up, despite the disappointing day (performance wise) at Weasdale.
Pics to follow if I can find any!