Sunday 14 June 2015

3 Rings of Shap

The 6th race in this series so this would mark the half way point (once completed). It is an event a bit different to most ultras as it is organised by the LDWA. I am a great fan of such events as they are low cost, good value with masses of food all the way round and at the end and always have really friendly marshalls. It is also unusual in that it is like a 3 leaved clover and you return to base- great for changing shoes and socks, collecting a torch and eating hot food in comfort. I had done this event for the first time last year and then a fortnight ago had receed it with Bob over a couple of days. It meant I was fairly sure that I would not need my map or race notes. A footbridge had been rebuilt so there was a minor change on Ring 1 and a rather overgrown woodland could be avoided this year.
We arrived on Friday afternoon to find the ROs a little stressed at the lack of access to the car park and camping field. It got resolved before dark.

 We set up the display boards and erected all the flags and banners.Then there was time for food before we met in the Greyhound for a Runfurther committee meeting. It was warm and sunny although the forecast was still for some heavy thundery showers, maybe.

Si entries at registration
At registration in the morning the kitchen staff were already busy with toast, tea and more. The origins of the event are a challenge not a race so all the 'prizes' go into a raffle. LDWA are moving into the 21st century and the event was using Si timing for the first time. Well before the end of the event they were hooked- quick results, extra detail, a chance to predict when runners would return based on times from the last ring and when they left the hall.
Runfurther committee study map changes
For me it was interesting to see how long I spent between rings. It turns out that I was very consistent at around 13 minutes each time. Neil the RO was bouncing with enthusiasm and he kept this up for over 24 hours. His enthusiasm was infectious. Andy talked about Runfurther and announced the spot-prizes at the race briefing and then we were off, sort of. You can start anytime between 8 and 9. There are narrow stretches, many stiles and stepping stones in the first few km so you either need to start bang on 8am and get ahead or wait a bit. I chose to wait until almost 8.25 and I did get a clear run which kept my feet dry on the stones over the river.
Not race day but never mind
My game plan had changed in the last week. Having decided to try for the Runfurther Grand Slam finishing was now the number one priority. I think I run best when there is no pressure. I really did not think I was pushing hard on Ring 1 and so I was surprised to pull ahead of Andy and catch so many others. I trotted on just doing my own thing. Ken Suter came bounding by at great speed. He won all 3 rings in the super fast time of 10 hours 38. The ground was so dry that I kept dry feet except for one short stretch on Mosedale.

After Hobgrumble Gill I caught a group debating the best way. Part of the confusion was this years route being a little different. I stuck to my plan and ran on.
One day I will explore this path N off Selside
The path east of the river was slower than the road but kinder to my feet. I arrived at Truss Gap 10 minutes up on last year. That was a surprise. No mini pizza this year so I grabbed some sausage rolls and pushed on. I spotted David Wilson up ahead and reeled him in whilst he was reading route instructions. It worked well for both of us as I knew the way and he helped me up my pace for a while. I made sure I ate and drank well- Joe Hill would be proud of me. I did work as I arrived back in Shap 22 minutes up on last year and not feeling I had really thrashed it. Back in the hall I was efficient but not hurried. I changed my socks and shoes and grabbed a sandwhich, cake and cup of tea as well as remembering to refill my water bottle and replace the food I carried. I was keen to be off before I stiffened up. Last year Ring 2 was my low point and there were bits I did not really enjoy. Now I knew what to expect and looked forward to the good bits. Again I just set out to enjoy myself. After the first few miles I saw almost nobody and I think that helped as I just ran at my own pace, and slowed to eat when I wanted to. I spotted Martin T briefly but apparently he got lost and I never saw him again. Again the ground was bone dry and it made for speedy running and no worries about slipping. I had changed in to the widest trail shoes I own and my toes appreciated it. I arrived at Great Strickland where the CP is behind the pub about 40 minutes up. Opps I felt OK but was sure I would pay for it. I stopped for food and to refill by bottle. It was very humid all day and I was determined to drink plenty. I knew when I crossed the A6 to enter the Lowther deer park that I was slowing down. I stomped the ups and ran the rest.
I was very glad of the water before the suspension bridge but did only jog the river path. Last year this ring was so awful for me I hoped my time would still be up. It was by over 50 mins, so mostly gained in the first half.
No need to change my footwear this time but my top was soaked so I changed that and grabbed my head torch although it looked like I should be back before dark.As I sat down to refuel Gary arrived. He had been chasing me at the start of the ring and must have had a better second half. I think even the LDWA ladies in the kitchen were awed by how much I ate in the 13 minutes I stayed. I started with a cup of tea, bowl of soup and two sandwiches. Then had cake and a meat pie with gravy. It was a joy to be eating well with no stomach issues. Martin T arrived and I wondered if I could leave with him and if I did for how far I would keep up. The next time I looked up he had gone. Ah well. It meant I could start the ring slowly and let the food go down. It was a slow jog all the way to the footbridge over the motorway. I spotted a green T shirt behind me and thought Gary was on my tail. This motivated me to run harder and I kept it up over the quarry area and out on to the grassy limestone paths. I love this ring as it is varied and very runnable.

Well. it would be on fresh legs.  Heading up over the tiny limestone crags I spotted the first glow sticks and then a strawberry! Too tempting to resist. I was wonderful, except I thought there could be a trail of them and was disappointed to find no more. Dropping off the moor to the first road I realised the green T shirt was gaining.
As we climbed to the beacon and memorial cross we both got a shock. Martin had been wondering who was keeping up the pace and I had not realised that although he had left the hall he had gone to his car to change his shirt. We ran together over the limestone and through the nature reserve. I was struggling to keep up but I had the advantage that I knew the way. We arrived at the field CP about 13 mins up on my previous time. I knew I had to let Martin go or I would suffer badly later.
No time for photos today- but ther are lots on our recee days
I caught him again before the descent to Gaythorne hall and was able to help with the nav and use him to pull me along. It was a flog from the hall up to the road but I knew I would enjoy the grassy downhill to Crosby Ravensworth. From here I kept my mind busy with loads of mental maths trying to convert km, minutes, last years time, etc. I settled on a clock time that would 23 minutes up, another that would be an hour up and finally a gold standard where I would get back inside 13 hours total. It made the lane and farm track pass more quickly and by the time I arrived at the cattle grid onto the moor it gave me a target. I knew I could get the gold target. Under 5km left , mostly downhill and plenty of time. I even stopped for a pee and then later diverted round a field to avoid cows, calves and a huge bull. Total time 12 hours 43 and a new ladies record again.
Could be my best race of the year
I must have tried harder than I had thought because I was almost tearful when I stopped in the hall. Chatting with Martin, the RO Neil and Si man Steve soon settled me and then I got a hug from Kerrie. They had been running as a threesome and a foot injury meant they bailed after Ring 2.  My feet were a little sore when I stopped but my legs were not too bad at all. More tea, cakes and curry and I was ready for bed. I could not face the trek to the shower so it was a rapid strip wash in the van instead. Once I was horizontal I could not get comfy and spent 4 hours tossing and turning before I fell asleep. I woke at 6am to find Bob had not reappeared. A quick panic and I dressed hurriedly to go across to the hall. He had decided not to disturb me and so sat chatting to Steve and Neil. He had completed his longest ultra to date and in under 19 hours. Only the dark and damp limestone had slowed him down on the final ring. Another confirmed ultra junky.
All that remained was to eat more, take down the banners and flags and pack up the display boards. We saw the last 3 completers of the 3 rings finish and Nick and Dick emerged from the sleeping hall in time for a chat and review of the race. Thanks to all the volunteers and the LDWA, superb.

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