There was a slight burning smell around the car as I sat patiently but reluctantly in a convoy of sight-seers as we pottered over the Kirkstone Pass. Making my way to Coniston for the short 6 mile fell race (AM:2400ft), I had failed to factor in that I'd be driving at 25 mph. I knew, as I carved my way down 'The Struggle' to Ambleside that I would be cutting it fine to get to the start of the race in time (yet again!). I arrived at the village and parked up at the local school, but after asking directions I still had a mile to go across a field and along a hedge to the farmhouse with the 'funny' chimneys. As I dashed along the gravel track I told myself this was my warm-up. Thankfully, I made it in time and lined up in the show ground with around 60 or 70 doughty athletes. It was a beautiful day and it being the start of my autumn campaign, I was looking forward to the shock of having my heart rate rise from 50 to 180 bpm within 4 minutes. I've got no form this month what with holidays, low mileage and waning motivation. Off we went up along the grey gravel, then across the main road and up and up onto the grass. The hill was there in front of us, and I was sat in around 10th place (biding my time I told myself). There was a little variation in route but no easy way across the rocks and grass and moss and I occasionally stopped for a breather under the guise of taking some snaps.
A few lads and one lass passed me on the way up and I was anxious at the small but burgeoning charabang of runners snapping at my ankles. There was some steep stuff higher up which saw me doing the spider crawl, grabbing clumps of grass and corners of grey lichen covered flagstones. This can easily progress to the crab-walk if, while on your hands and knees, you need to go sideways while, at the same time, also trying to go up.
As we ascended I was aware of the stunning view behind me. I didn't see it, couldn't see it, just felt it and that on a normal day, it would have been a glorious walk to the top.
Being out of my usual circuit of races, I didn't recognise anyone and there were a wide assortment of vests on display. At last I saw a runner coming down and was relieved. The summit wasn't far away. But there was yet another false summit to deal with and on seeing this unexpected additional and gratuitous metreage I muttered a few four letter specials under my breath (nice, good, high..eh?!!). I got to the top in 45 minutes and then it was all the way down. I had half convinced myself that I would pass a few on the way down but instead I was quickly passed by a Wharfdale lad and then another guy. I later caught him as he took a different, slower line down the hill. The soles of my feet were suffering and I was aware that my descent was slow and laboured.
As the concrete track appeared and the gradient eased the Pegasus-like fell shoes became the familiar treacle wellies. It was, however, a loud and warm welcome as I pegged back into the show field and was thankful not to have to do a lap to the finish line. I took a photo of the trophy perched and glinting on the table. I said to the bloke minding the tent that this would be the closest I'd get to it. He suggested then, that he took a photo of me holding it. Aye, I thought, that'll be right. After a dousing of water and a tic-search, I made my way back to the car. I thought I might check the oil. None. That probably explained the burning smell on the way down. Stopped at the garage and topped up. What a dipstick. I need a few of these steep races, some new targets to harden my resolve.