Sunday, 4 December 2011

Eskdale Eureka 2011

If there was a league table for odd named fell races, I think the Eskdale Eureka would be up there with some of the best of them. Clashing with the local cross country and the Hexham Hobble, there was still around 100 or so runners who’d made the pilgrimage to Castleton nestled in the North York Moors for the Eureka. This place is my old cycling haunt of the early 80’s and it hadn’t changed a bit.
There was a slow queue snaking its way from Dave Parrys car (race HQ). Although clear and calm, it was barely above freezing and runners in various nylon padded jackets jumped and hugged themselves on the spot to keep the circulation going. It was just about the most exposed spot in this 8 mile fell race (Later when the hail and rain came down it was a less attractive spot for the presentation, but that’s us getting ahead of ourselves)!
As I sat in the car I took some comfort from the fact that, in December, the route should be mostly on tracks and that the start was downhill to a bridge before the slow slog uphill started. I didn’t bother taking off my lycra tights or two layers and hat but I was looking forward to testing my new OMM bum bag...(Ok, I don't get out much)! As we set off I made some goofy faces at the team camera operator.   I found out later that the proper camera had been playing up so the pictures on the Flickr site might be a bit hit'n'miss. Luckily (for me) I was also armed with the phone. I chose my moments well and struck a number of times early on the course with the phone. I find it great as a tool to psyche out those around you – just when they think you’re flat out you slow, grope, point, shoot and no one’s any the wiser. 'What just happened'?
The wooden bridge was as slippy as a forlorn January pavement and it was tip-toe across the soapy planks before working through the field from 20th to around 12th. The next few guys and one gal took a wee bit longer to catch and, in the meantime, I was passed by a runner in white who just ground out a great relentless and steady rhythm which I couldn’t match. He never got very much in front of me, but suffering an apparent relapse of the cold after my trip to St James Park yesterday (without my hat on) my tubes were not giving me 100% and the engine was only giving me eighty. A curse on those tubes.
 I followed the series of shoe soles in front closely but every other step was a two step or swerve, baby step or jump as the narrow and tortuous moorland track was strewn with round and random gritty grey boulders making life interesting for the unprepared.
It was at around 3.5miles that we hit the forestry track, then down through some green pasture, up a mossy bank and through some burnished brittle brown ferns and along a stream bank. Having got to the front of a three-some, I nearly took them across the stream before realising that getting your feet wet wasn’t obligatory. As the wind picked up and the light hail and then rain began, it was further along the bank to cross another wooden bridge and up the nasty, steep and sheltered tarmac road before dropping back left into the valley and going back the way we came.

If you have a downhill start, its a sure thing there’s an uphill finish and I struck out after the last bridge to secure my top 10 finish. It wasn’t pretty but I got there. It took around 63 minutes and I felt my calf pull near the end, so I’ll be nursing that all this week, no doubt. 
 Leaving 40 minutes or so later armed with not one but two bottles of wine, we drove out to Whitby and had lunch at Dunsley Hall. A fantastic tasty main course, sticky toffee pudding and then a pot of tea by the fire as I reclined in leather seats and footstool. I didn’t want to go home. - Results at Eskdale Fell Runners site - photos at the Flickr site. Thanks to the NFR runner who seems to be in two of these 'ere photos (Phil I think)?

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