Monday 27 April 2015

The Fellsman

Despite persuading Bob to try the Runfurther series he is not daft and decided The Fellsman would not be his 'long' race. There would not be time to recee it and Calderdale plus it would be too soon after our big Munro adventures. Fortunately he was prepared to come to the event and this meant the rest of the Runfurther committee could go to Threshfield as usual and experience the true delights of the sports hall floor and the early bus  put up flags and banners plus hand over Clif Bars at their kit check. Meanwhile Bob and I would spend the night in the comfort of our van in Ingleton and put flags up there.

 The heavy rain in the night disturbed my sleep a bit but by dawn it was almost dry. With the flags up and my kit check done we went back to the van for breakfast. I should say at this point that the kit check for the Fellsman is one of the most rigorous I have attended- I still remember Sarah Rowell checking the studs on my shoes and the weight of my marzipan a few years ago.

With breakfast over I returned to the community centre to find friends. Andy and Nick appeared on the bus. Tony, Albert and Andy appeared and so many others to say Hi to. It was good to see Mick P again even if he wasn't running.

By 8.20 after several breaks in the gossip for the toilet we were herded outside and down the steps onto the field. It was already raining a bit and the forecast was not good, in fact Jonathon warned us of worsening conditions with a very cold evening and wind chill of minus 5. I had already made my decisions and packed kit for the worst - I was glad of this later. Runners streamed out of the sports field and onto the road leading to Ingleborough. I for once managed to keep myself from storming off too fast and kept a steadier pace even though it meant letting friends like Nigel, Martin D and Carmine go ahead. Wind, rain and poor visibility on the top meant we made a silly error and missed the path down and so did a full tour of the summit plateau. Bill J and I hoped this would not define the day!
Tony, Albert and Andy F
My descent to the Hill Inn was even more pathetic. After 2 bad falls in 2 years I now hate wet greasy rock and am very cautious. It meant Andy and others shot past me.

I scanned my tally and grabbed a biscuit before crossing the road and aiming for Whernside. The rain was getting worse as we headed up the farm track although we all tried to run and smile for the photographers- they must laugh as they see us perk up ready for their cameras. I hate running with my hood up and although the big waterproof inherited from one of my boys meant dry hands the hood was not a good fit. Leaving it down of course meant loads of water down my neck and wet thermals. I was disappointed to feel so tired plodding up Whernside but persuaded myself it was early days yet. I could not believe that the 30 Munros would not be good hill preparation.

The marshalls on the summit were cheerful despite the awful weather- and the camera I smiled at was used in this article
I missed the front runners but was able to see those up to 20 minutes ahead of me running down. It gave me people to chase once we were on grassy ground where I dared to run harder and I caught Mick C.  I was carrying food so skipped the CP food and headed up towards Gragareth. This was a real low spot for me a couple of years ago and I was surprised how tagging in behind Bill J soon got me to the top. Here we found a lovely surprise- the marshall had pitched her tent and the CP in the lee of the wall saving us all about 800m of out and back. The slog along the very boggy wall to Great Coum was next and with wind and rain in our faces it was hard going. In the gloom we heard the radios of the marshalls and homed in. I made the mistake of thinking anyone with a GPS had the correct line and so headed a little too far east on the descent but it probably didn't lose me as much as the rutted greasy lane into Dent. Anne J encouraged me and a cheese and onion pastry perked me up... a bit. I was not enjoying being so cold and wet and thinking it was due to get worse not better. Still the next few miles are easy so plod on and try to catch Bill. Fortunately I did catch him, just before the ruin, and was able to shout 'we need to turn left'  as he missed the trod out into the bog.  I still do not know the best way across the bog of Little Dale Beck or even if there IS a good way. By now the rain had turned to sleet and the only bright spot was that I could see I was gaining on Andy. It was downhill from Blea Moor but the mud in Mossy Bottom was yuk. As I ran into Stonehouse dreaming of a rest, warmth and pasta I met Mick P and Anne out supporting and should apologise for being so grumpy about the weather. Once in the tent I refuelled and was pleased to have caught Tony, Albert and Andy F just on their way out. I also caught Bill and Andy Splatcher. I had hoped to keep my extra layers for later when it would be cold but knew that Anne was right when she said we needed to put it all on now.
All meant all of this except the big mitts and the buff AND included the primaloft that is now in the wash
Dave R stripped to near naked to replace his shorts with long tights and others were shedding layers and replacing them with dry ones. I left Stonehouse with a full stomach of pasta and tea dressed in a short sleeve top, two thermals, a primaloft jacket, waterproof jacket and thick waterproof over trousers. The latter had been zipped up for me by the RO who was there explaining we would be grouped early and encouraging us all the add layers. I persuaded Andy not to drop out but to put all his gear on and come with me. He did but only for a few yards before he decided he was far too cold and wet. Typically as I approached the Artengill viaduct the rain stopped and the sun came out. At this point I had Oz for company and we climbed together for a while. By the top I had sweat running down my back but was warmer, happier and gaining places. I did not dare to stop and take anything off though.
Thanks Anne J
Redshaw appeared quite quickly and I grabbed and hot dog, jam sandwich and some malt loaf. I left with Oz and 2 others. By Snaizeholme it was a different day and our spirits were lifting. True, our feet were heavy but what a difference it made not to have more rain.  The pace set by one guy was just a bit quick for me, I tried to keep up but feared it would kill me off. Oz agreed so after Dodd Fell we let them go and took a different route. Oz must have a good line because by Fleet Moss we were back together. We had been warned of early grouping by here but we made it through in improving weather and good daylight. Refuelled with soup and more we set off again and at a better pace. After the blue cup style we could see a line of runners up ahead and we were gaining. Oz had not been to the 'new' CP on Middle Tongue so I led the way with no mishaps.  Between there and Cray we caught the 'group' and suddenly we were about a dozen in number. Albert was sadly feeling ill and Andy F had fallen so they stopped at the CP. Oz, Dave R, John and I found Peter S at the CP. He had been feeling fragile but grouped with us and we departed for Buckden Pike.
Thanks Marshalls
The bad forecast did not really materialise- it was cold and the stiles got slippery with frost but there was no wind and it was a beautiful evening. As we hauled our weary bodies uphill I stopped to remove my over trousers at last and prayed it would not be a mistake. The views back to the mountains and the setting sun were amazing and the CP staff at the top seemed so delighted to see us.
I ditched my camera but thanks Christopher Street
With still no need for torches we headed off on an agreed line and ran the best we could as a group- we all had bad patches and so there were stretches we had to walk. It can be frustrating but the group were great and I could not have wished for finer team mates. Peter was ill at Park rash and I had to stop eating for fear of throwing it all back up. The early slopes of Great Whernside are a wet mess and Tony's group pulled away and we lost them. Once we were on the rising traverse I really wanted to run and tried to push the pace a little. Peter and I spotted the beacon and CP easily this year- no wind and so need to hide in the rocks. At this point we did not really have a group plan but by default followed the fence line along the crest. It wasn't actually what I planned after my last reccee but I had been that way before. The trod by the fence line was OK and just as we were getting worried I spotted a great little trod taking us SW and out to the track. At the time I was sure we had lost time and made a poor choice but I now know otherwise. We could see torches behind and were determined the next group would not catch us. From Capplestone Gate we ran the best we could and at least the grassy paths were kind to our legs and feet. Glow sticks and beacons led the way and before long we could see the lights of the Yarnbury CP. Yes, nearly there. Despite the banter and care we had taken for each other we de-grouped here and raced to the finish. John shot off ahead with Peter, Dave and I pushing tired legs to stride down tarmac. Poor Oz lost time getting his tally to swipe and then suffered with his back on the jolting tarmac.  Running through Grassington I was disappointed with our time- over 15 hours 30 - but on reflection it was not so bad. As we sat in the corridor exhausted Tony's group arrived. Somewhere after Great Whernside we had overtaken them! Our group was brilliant- Thanks so much guys for your comapny, support and just being there. Carmine had only finished a couple of minutes ahead of me. I would not normally expect to finish with Peter. I had beaten Bill J and a couple of other rivals and the weather had not helped. I guess I will just have to try again another year to get under the 15 hour mark. I had to leave the group as we went for showers. Communal pee stops on the hill are one thing but back in the civilised world we stick to the rules. Thanks to Charmian who collected my bag from the quarter-master for me. A bottle of for goodness shakes barely touched the sides and then it was a lovely hot shower and bed. My thermorest should have felt good but my hips were complaining. I couldn't be bothered to make time to raise mt feet and that was a mistake. It was nice and cool in the sports hall so I slept in skins which meant my morning my legs were OK but my feet felt battered. I fell into bed at 12.55 and must have slept. I was aware of Mick  C climbing into his sleeping bag and some bugger snoring. At about 7 I decided enough and got up for breakfast and to search for Bob and the van. The prize-giving seemed a long wait but is was good to just sit, eat, drink and talk. Jasmine Paris set an awesome new ladies record and Mary G had what would usually be a winning run. I was initially awarded 3rd lady but was sure carol Morgan was ahead of me, unless she had dropped out? No, I was correct she had beaten me. So 4th lady and 1st F Vet. No too bad. It is a great event with an amazing organisation and great to see so many teenagers helping at CPs and in the kitchen.

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