Saturday, 8 October 2011

Langdale Horseshoe Fell Race 2011

£6.50 to enter; £3.50 for a map (so at least I could get lost with confidence) and £2 for parking and a hot pasty at the end. There was only one thing lying between me and that pasty. Fourteen miles and 4000ft of rocky Lake District terrain. The Langdale Horseshoe Fell race was the race I have been training for. As I had raced hard last weekend I drove down past Grasmere and gave myself the day off. At that distance there was going to be time enough to enjoy it.

This was an English Championship counter which explained the appearance of 400 hardened runners. The kit-check was uneventful and off we went at 11a.m. in the drizzle and moody white mist that hung around the peaks like an unwanted friend. I had been pouring over the forecast in the last 48 hours and was dressed for winter, but as we ascended up the farm track and then up through a high steep gully on stone stairs, I was cooking. Beads of sweat dropping from my nose, so the hat and waterproof came off and I pinned the number on my top.
This was my first time at this Lakeland Classic so I had the camera-phone and bored all around me snapping here and there. The mist on the top came and went and somehow it was rockier, infinitely slippier and steeper than I had imagined. My shoes were like skates across some of the boulder fields and only behaved themselves on the coarser grey grit. Am I alone in wondering if the rubber compound on the sole is better in some shoes than others?
I had started working through the lower half of the field and had time to take in the nice views on the rare occasions that they presented themselves. After an hour I looked at the wrist and we had covered a stylish but dilatory 4 miles. The jacket went back on. The hat went on, the hat came off, the jacket came off. Mild behind each peak, windy, misty and cool on the top.
I was with a group of 10 and passed five, but when I looked ahead, there were still around 10 ahead, a bit like a set of Babushka nesting dolls. I suppose there were just so many people on the hill ahead of me. After 2 hours I had done 8 miles, had my second gel and wondered if the winner was in yet. I could smell that pasty from here. I came down on my left hand badly at one point but thankfully it wasn’t my camera hand! There was also an interesting moss bog on route - just for a laugh.
As we passed through the last checkpoint we were coming out of the mist and it was warmer but as the views improved with the sun behind us the camera had steamed up and it was binned for the remainder of the race. We came to a steep rocky scarp and the lads ahead stopped. As I ran up toward them I just caught a glimpse in my peripheral vision of a runner behind on the high ground going sharp right. He had grey hair and was moving confidently so I was off and followed him down a great line off the hill. Passing an injured runner I stopped briefly but help had already been summoned, so I tucked in behind an Arragon Tri runner and came down into the valley and down toward the finish through 3 or 4 kissing gates. Each wooden gate had blood smeared on the top which was alarming but it didn’t stop me passing a Bowland runner just before the end. Competitive streak. Sad, isn’t it!

Just before the pasty fest there was some unpleasantness in the car as my quad cramped but after the obligatory one footed hopping dance and matching facial contortions around the vehicle all was well. It’s a long way to run never mind race and I think the only way to manage some of these knee busters is to just to run them and enjoy them. Finished in 2:58 - 96th. Next time I might manage a beer afterwards.
(Photos in the gallery)

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