Thursday, 21 April 2016

It will all work out alright in the end

Only one week to recover this year between the Calderdale Hike and the Fellsman but I was not too worried about that. I was worried that my left shin area was uncomfortable and Bob was still trying to pass me his cold. It would be my 5th Fellsman so I pretty much knew the way and what to expect. It would be Bob's first but we had done a fair few reccees.
Andy, Bob, Dick and Josie
The forecast changed day by day but at least it wasn't for torrential rain or gales. In the end it was mostly blue sky and quite warm, hot in the valleys in early afternoon and a bit chilly but not really cold around midnight. Oh and we got a bit of sleety snowy hail and mist on Fleet Moss to Middle Tongue. Possibly the best weather I have ever done it in although the ground conditions were perhaps the worst.
The only time I saw Mike until Sunday morning
We drove across early on Friday afternoon to put up flags, banners and display boards with Andy. Despite this we were not first in the registration line. Fortunately we were late enough for the parking field to be declared shut and we parked on tarmac at the school.
Bob- Fellsman virgin
By 7pm we were registered and kit checked and had left out drop bags too. Back in the van we had our evening meal and wondered what the weather would bring. Overnight the rain stopped and the wind dropped. It was chilly but not freezing cold. We had booked on the last bus and so had plenty of time for breakfast and final adjustments to our sacks.
Nick making sure he stays warm this year
Once on the bus it was clear there had been snow overnight on all the bigger peaks like Pendle, Ingleborough, Whernside etc but it did look more of a dusting than a serious amount. We breezed through the hall and collected out tallies before finding many friends to catch up with. Josie was nervous without Albert and Tony, especially Tony her nav man.

Aleks was there in sandals again although he had put socks on too. All too soon we were herded outside and our tallies got their first clip of the day. Suzanne had a quick chat, told of us snow still falling on the tops and we were off. I tried a different way out of the field this year. It had a short sharp pull up but was a little shorter. I am not sure there is much in it really. As we left the road and started our first big climb I could see Josie ahead and I  fell in with Mick C and Dave R. I felt I was really struggling to keep up and just did not feel in the zone. Tearful? what is that all about?

Descending the slightly wet rock did not improve my humour as 36 people overtook me. Having had two bad falls on rock I am now a real wuss. I tried to laugh it off but I was cross with myself. Still a few others did tumble and there are many miles and hours left at this stage so perhaps I was wise. Once off the flagstones and onto the lower paths I picked up the pace and set about regaining places.
Great photos from Racingsnakes
I did not blast it but by running and barely stopping at the CP I was back with friends like Dave R on the lower slopes of Whernside.
The start of my happy face
By the top I had overtaken a number and was starting to enjoy myself. It was a wonderful day to be out in the hills and my legs had now started to get into the zone. Despite the dusting of snow it was not really cold so long tights and two very thin thermals was all I needed.
Looking back to snow on Ingleborough
On my way to the trig point CP I met the winners and faster runners like Ian, Chris and others on their way down. Josie passed just before the top and shouted for me to catch her up. Jasmin also passed me but she was descending to the Hill Inn? I guessed she was not racing and just out for a run. Hmm, that means Josie and I were definitely at the sharp end and I needed to man up and make a proper effort. There was little rock now and as we got further down the ridge none at all so I started racing. Once over the slightly worrying tall aluminium stile it was just boggy and I could not believe how many people I was now overtaking.

At Kingsdale I grabbed a flapjack and stomped uphill closing on Josie and others. I did stop to catch my breath and admire the views but progress was good.

Soon I was on the little out and back to Gragareth summit and the friendliest marshalls on the hills.

It was as boggy as I ever remember it along the tops to Great Coum but I was with a small group and this kept the pace up even as we picked our way through the worst bits. From the trig CP I tried a slightly different line this year.

I didn't get it totally right as I crossed one band of rocks but it was otherwise drier, more direct and more runnable than the wet by the wall. I had been dreading the stony track down to Dent as I had opted for grip not comfort but in the end it was fine and I met Josie in the campsite field. She was having a bit of a nightmare as her too small sack meant she also had a bum bag which was uncomfortable and her water bottle had been crushed and split. I have gradually learnt how to be efficient at CPs. Knowing what would be available helped and I planned ahead. Grab some orange pieces, ask for a cup of tea, top up may water and take a cheese and onion roll. Leave the field walking with the tea and roll. 5 minutes at each CP, even just road side ones easily adds up to an hour not running. I couldn't help Josie, except to suggest she rummaged in the bin for a bottle, so I pushed on. It was now very warm in the valley and running along the lanes totally alone I got hot. I was regretting the thick tights I had on but knew later I would be grateful and I had not wanted to paff with leg cover at dusk when the rules insist on it.

Climbing the big track to the shoulder of Whernside I could see other runners ahead and I tried to reel them in. I didn't catch them up but did get closer. By the time it was time to leave the track people were taking many different lines.

I stuck to my plan and left before the ruin and found the trod to the fence line. It was very wet in the valley before Blea Moor but it always is and being light helps so I stuck to my shortest line route and headed for the cap of peat hags that were my guide. I caught one guy just at the CP.

A quick stop to admire the view and chat to the marshalls and I was off towards Stonehouse and more food. What a motivation! I tried to shout the guy back when he missed the fence climb to the trod but it was too windy. The mud in the forest section was a bit grim but I was soon at Dent Head Farm, minus the turkey now, and then the lanes alongside the river.
Thanks Laura Sportsunday

I ran this section alone and it was nice to see supporters out at the bridge, including Jane and Laura who both took nice photos of me. The CP staff here are amazing and had a new fancy dress theme of super heroes this year.

They also had a nifty foot operated water filler. I stopped for pasta, two pieces of cake and a cup of tea. I must have woofed it down because I left only just behind a group that had been some way ahead of me.
Thanks Jane
Careful not to run just yet I stomped up Artengill beck. I can stomp fast. In fact for me it can be as fast as running up hills and seems to use much less energy. I gained places here and felt good with all the food inside me.
Thanks David Sportsunday
It is a long pull up but Dave from Sportsunday was there to cheer us on and eventually the stone stile appeared. I was lucky to have company all the way up and down Great Knoutberry which motivated me to keep up the pace. I love the run down off this hill, no rocks and not so steep it hurts. It is also useful to see who is just behind and to feel good about who you area head of now. I did not see Josie at all and was worried about where she had got to. The run to Redshaw is easy and in good weather finding the best line is no problem. It was here that I caught Dave, Terry, John and others. I grabbed even more food and set off out the door with a banana. Leaving the CP we all suddenly felt the chill eats wind moving up the valley and had to stop to put cags and gloves on. They were moving at a good pace but we still had time to chat and put the world to rights. Snaizeholme arrived in a blur and we were off up the easy path to Cam road which had been newly surfaced (perhaps for a big cycle race?). I felt I was starting to struggle with the pace but they were keen for us to be a foursome and run together until we were grouped. At the trod to Dodd I was still with them and I hung on down the other side. We arrived at Fleet Moss together but it was starting to take its toll on me. Time for more food, although we were all pretty efficient with this and did not take long. I was carrying food but it was mostly sweet (you'd think I had learnt by now) so the CPs with real food like hotdogs, soup and stew were wonderful.
Determined but slowing -Racingsnakes
It was still early here so we were in no danger of being grouped and about 10 of us set off on various lines across Fleet Moss and onwards. The weather closed in at this point with a nice flurry of snowy sleety hail and some bad visibility but I knew the way, as did most others, and we pushed on hard. At least it was getting hard for me. Hugh and his dad were with us now and I felt happier that I was no longer the slowest in the pack. I did doubt Dave's line to Middle Tongue but stuck with the group regardless. Their pace probably compensated for the rougher ground anyway. After the CP I had intended to drop a little to easier ground before the fence and wall but I stuck with the group for company. On this section Dave and a few faster runners pulled ahead and a couple also dropped behind. At Hells Gap which was unmanned this year I caught Terry who also had suffered from the fast pace. A quick wee stop at a wall and I was flying down to Cray. The CP was in the new cattle pens and I stopped for food again. Here 6 of us were grouped as dusk was looming. It was cozy in the CP but once out we decided it was chilly and most of us had our primaloft jackets on (great advert for Montane it would have been).

After a short discussion we stuck to the left hand path and soon emerged at the top of Buckden Pike.

It was almost sunset and the temperature was dropping. Having got the climb over with I now wanted to run, well jog. It is one of the frustrations of grouping that you cannot always move at the pace you would prefer.
Our 6

 I told myself we were still moving OK and tried to chivy things along. The flagstones were still fine but the stiles were now getting a very thin coating of ice.
Thanks to Aleks for photo
The pallets in the wall corner were lethal and one of our group was decked but fortunately not hurt. As we approached Top Mere we still felt no need for torches and had also got a little spread out. We were reprimanded by the marshalls who also insisted we donned our torches.
Our group of 6 were not really at the same pace now although we stuck together as we jogged towards Park Rash. Here we met two sad souls who had been waiting for a group for over 20 minutes. We broke our group of 6 and two of us offered to join them. The admin took a few minutes but we grabbed food and were ready for the off. On the steep section of Great Whernside I was regretting my enthusiasm for more pace and slowed the group a little. I hope my route knowledge made up for this from there to the finish. Once we had broken through the wall and were on the diagonal path we jogged and the lights of the other group fell away behind us. We left the top in high spirits knowing that the last big climb was over. The fence line route was very very wet and I wondered if we should have dropped to the alternative but despite the wet and bogs we were still moving quite fast. Brian and friend were making the pace with Stuart (who I had met on a reccee) and I controlling the lines. Great team work. It was properly dark now but we all had decent torches and the ground was not too bad. I needed more food but did not want to slow us down so just forced two gels down as we ran on. From Capplestone Gate the terrain gets easier and the grassy paths are a joy. We didn't manage to run every step of this but we tried. The numerous beacons (I am sure there were more this year) drew us on and seemed to be insisting we ran faster. The gels were perhaps one too many because as we approached Yarnbury I knew I was going to be sick. We de-grouped, refused all offers of food etc and set off for home. Brian and friend soon disappeared. I was sick but managed to keep Stuart in my sights even though I was unable to catch him up. Down the tarmac which did not hurt my quads as much as previously (please dont suggest I had not been trying hard enough), through the sleepy village, down to the river and one last stomp up the other side before running into the school. At Redshaw I had been on for 14.5 hours which would have been a huge PB. As it was I lost time from Cray to Park Rash. I was happy with 15 hrs 45 and slumped in my chair. Amazingly I was first lady as Jasmin did not run and Nicky etc had not entered. It is probably the slowest win in recent years but I don't care, plus it was muddy and many times were about an hour slower than usual. It was alright in the end!
I was glad I had planned ahead and left a drop bag. I hobbled round to collect it and then sat in the showers. It was a battle getting shoes and clothes off but I was determined to get a shower. It was hot and forceful. My feet were suddenly painful and the toes on my right foot started going an alarming purple blush. I struggled into skins, more clothes and then hobbled round to the van and bed. It was cold enough for me to put the heater on for an hour or so and I couldn't sleep at first as my hips just wouldn't get comfy.I remember wondering where Bob was and how he was doing as I drank a recovery shake and then fell asleep. I was up before 7am to find the van was very cold and just 0.5C. I threw clothes on and wandered in to the school for a toilet and food. I ate more and more breakfast and sat chatting. I didn't actually feel too bad really. I am sure the skins and recovery shake do work and the soft ground meant my legs were less trashed than often.
Photo- Racingsnakes
Suzanne did a great prize giving although I did feel a bit of a fraud as first lady. Patagonia had given incredibly generous prizes which made it even more worth while. Runfurther and my friends had done well. Ian S, Martin , Chris , Mick, Andy, Nick, Dick, and more. Josie was second lady and had managed without Tony to guide her. Andy and I moved outside to get the flags down and John V came to help. It was a crisp bright morning and I was keen to get out and find Bob.

My recovery 'run' involved a fast stomp up to Yarnbury! Just before the CP I spotted him- stooped, twisted and bent over to one side. He had hurt his back in the dark on Fleet Moss and had been like that ever since to ease the pain. I told him there was a V70 trophy with his name on it and he must keep moving. I walked down the hill with him and a friend he had made Dave.It seemed to take forever but he was beyond running. I was very worried when he hugged the wall at the river but he made it up the slope and jogged into the school.

I pushed Bob to move into the hall and fetched him food. He had his own mini presentation and it was good to see the fuss they made of him after his efforts.

It is a tough event  at 61 miles and 11,000foot of climb but a great organisation and a lovely route. Despite the tough terrain and climbs there are long cut-offs as it started as a walkers event which means many people can have a go. There were awards for people who had completed 10,20,30 and even 40 events. I don't see how I can make 40 as I would be in my mid 90s then but it might be nice to complete 10 Fellsmans.
So a fantastic weekend that finished with a great family double with two trophies and a shed load of voucher value from Patagonia! After all it will be alright in the end!


  1. Hi Karen,great write up again, I'm starting my own little blog, would you mind if I used some of your Fellsman landscape pics? I've not yet got into the habit of taking any:-)

  2. Hi Daryl
    Glad you enjoyed it- the blog and the event. Feel free to use any of mine that really are mine. Please don't use the ones where I credit racing snakes or Sportsunday and for the sunset you need to ask Aleks.
    We did several reccees in March both in deep snow and not in snow. See blog in March and there are more photos of the scenery and the terrain.
    Good luck with your blog

  3. Thanks Karen, I'll have a look at the March blog.

  4. I liked your write up Karen with photos too.
    By now I am used to your slowish starts and grumbles. I think its just age where the body takes its time (might be an hour) to 'warm up' - I certainly feel the same. The trick is to make sure you do a long enough event (Fellsman easily qualifies) so that you get past the warm up and into the zone.
    Keep going - but do chill out a bit too.

  5. Yes, I have made a promise to try to suffer in silence rather than moan and give people like Dave Ralph's a laugh. No intention of stopping just need to accept that very long and slow do at least. Evan my very poor starts matter much less.
    Hope you are back to running and that we see you hat an ultra soon