It looks like you're new here. If you want to get involved, click one of these buttons!
Right, finally found some time for a write up of last week’s
race – the Langdale Horseshoe Fell Race. So grab a coffee and pull up a chair
This is a classic Lakeland ‘AL’ race – meaning long
and tough - and I had unfinished business
with it, having chickened out last year, sat in the car next to the start
line with storm Callum causing mayhem around me and the fells invisible through
the clag! The organiser’s description is spot on:
This race is over a rough, tough course with almost
exclusively rocky and slippy ground. The weather in October is rarely
‘pleasant’ and the fells are often clagged in, making navigation difficult on a
course with many pathless sections.
So, back this year with a little more clement weather – just
cold, windy and drizzly this time and a week’s worth of rain before to make sure
the bogs were especially boggy and the rocks were especially greasy!
The drive up the day before was almost easy, other than the
fact I somehow missed both junction 36 AND 37 on the M6 (despite
having done this trip numerous times!!!) and ended up taking a very scenic
route round parts of Cumbria I’d never been to before! Hey ho, soon dumped my stuff at the B&B (with
no parking issues whatsoever ) before pre-race carbo loading with 3 pints of Jennings
and great big toad in the hole and mash!
Race start was 11, so an early breakfast, sadly passing on
the full English for healthier option. I was the morning entertainment once the
WI group from Leeds who filled the rest of the breakfast room found out I was
doing a fell race that day!
So, a shortish, and very pleasant, drive up the Langdale
Valley to park in the NT car park near the start. This is where NT membership pays
off, as some in the race carpark had to be pulled out at the end! All kit re-checked and re-packed and off to
the kit check to have it checked again by marshals and to pick up my dibber, before a bit
of a token warm up and multiple visits to the pub toilet.
Just before the start a heavy shower came in, just to make
sure we were all wet to begin with!
I’d heard the start gets narrow quickly, so got myself
reasonably close to the front, but not so close that everyone would overtake
me – or that was the plan! I found myself lining up close to some of the
best-known crop of current fell runners, including Steve Birkinshaw, whose book
“No Map in Hell” about his record breaking round of the Wainwrights I’d just finished
Quick briefing reminding us to make sure we told the
marshals and the RO at the finish if we had to retire or died and we were off!
I was conscious of getting a good start, but with an estimated time of being
out around 3 to 3.5 hours, didn’t want to go off too quickly! Lots of jostling and elbows position, before
we were out onto the fell side, along a muddy, rocky path. Within 200m I’d
taken my first tumble! Embarrassed, but unharmed I carried on.
And so, the long, long climb up past Stickle Tarn and around
Pavey Ark began. I was holding my own here, climbing steadily and keeping up
with guys I knew would finish well as we passed through the first checkpoint
and working out my dibbing technique as we went. Then on to the first peak of
the day – Thunacar Knott in 42 mins, in a respectable 105th out of
389 at that point.
From there, it was over trackless, extremely boggy ground.
No navigational difficulties with that number of runners showing a clear line,
but heavy going and at one point I fell up to my waist into a bog, and had to
pull myself out with clumps of firmer grass “thanks for finding that one” said the
grinning bloke nearest me….
Then, over Martcrag Moor, followed by a steady climb over
rough ground across the face of Black Crags, before a brief respite on the
tourist path past Angle Tarn up to Esk Hause. Then the hell began!
From Esk Hause, some fell-running masochist in the early days
of the race decided that the best thing to do would be to take a straight,
direct line across the slopes of Esk Pike, heading straight for Bow Fell. There
is something of a runner’s trod here, but it is horrible! Described in the Pete
Bland race map guide as “awful but direct!”. It was a relentless slog of
slippery mud, studded with sharp, greasy boulders and stones, unendingly trying
to rip your shins or break your ankles, all above a very long drop! I lost
many, many places here as people with either
great skill or no imagination flew past. This unpleasantness finally ended,
being replaced by a field of more rounded, but randomly greasy boulders leading
to the top of Bowfell, with little runnable ground between them. At this point I was feeling tired and battered but knew
at least most of the climbing was in the bag. I hit the checkpoint on Bowfell
in 1 hour 50, in 154th place.
As we were now in mist, navigation could have been
challenging. I took the easy option of just following the line of runners in
front of me, to mixed results. We were
led over the Crinkle Crags to Long Top steadily enough, though over shattered
and difficult ground, and I found time to eat an energy bar. Whoever was leading our particular group of fell-running sheep decided on the option of avoiding the “bad-step” – a rock
step that involves an awkward down climb or a leap of faith. This year saw an experienced
competitor fall and break her knee, resulting in a couple of hours of being
attended to by other runners and marshals before a helicopter trip to hospital.
A stark reminder of why we carry the kit we do… Anyhow, our leader took us
round this, and there is an easy (relative term!) path to avoid that adds little distance. However, somehow in the mist, we
descended a long way too far, so a group of about 20 of us had the extra scenic route,
which added maybe 200 feet of re-ascent to our tally! Nice! As I said to a couple
of people who were starting to moan (in a light hearted fell-runners type of way!) about his – we could have got our own maps
out rather than following like sheep!!!
From there, it was a mile or so of absolute bliss! Easy
angled, firmish grass, and even a soft southerner like me could keep up the
pace!!! This soon passed though, and I found myself running step for step with a
lady runner who seemed to be picking some great lines down the technical,
winding, rocky descent we were now on. Before
long, we ended up at the foot of the last climb of the day – steeply, and directly
to the top of Pike O’Blisco. Oddly, I
really enjoyed this climb and found it quite refreshing! I like climbing anyway, and I was overtaking people without
risk of broken bones or having to constantly swear under my breath!
The descent from Pike O’Blisco to the final checkpoint at a
cattle grid is notoriously easy to get wrong, even in good weather (I got lost
here on my recce the year before!) so asked around for runners around me who had
done this race many times! One strong contender for this, said he had done it
six times (though still went wrong round the bad step!!) so I decided to follow
him. Sound plan, poorly executed! He
left me standing as soon as the descent began! So, I had to choose someone else
to follow or work it out for myself. Fortunately, the lady who picked the great
lines before, who I'd overtaken on the climb, went past at this point, so I slotted in behind her, which worked
really well as I could just concentrate on trying to keep up rather than looking at the route! It was quite
surreal for a time, as each time she overtook someone, they slipped and fell!
We had a chat about this, saying she was obviously jinxing people, and she told me she hadn’t yet had a tumble at all. I tried a different
line round a walker, in a vague attempt to overtake her, only to find myself arse
over tit in a spectacular forward roll, fortunately avoiding all sharp rocks
and ending up back on my feet! “That was impressive” commented the walker!
Indeed…..then a few moments later she ended up in the mire herself, and the guy she just overtook couldn't understand why I was laughing at her!
So, settled in and running steadily, we came to the final checkpoint
– very relieved! Jut a sharpish final descent through the campsite and then a
short run-in on the road. I lost a couple of places here, and the lady who kept me on track off Blisco deservedly gained a few more seconds on me, but no matter – I’d
finished and was still alive!!! 205th
and 3:19. The winner did 2:00, with the record from 1977 of 1:55 still
standing. I do not know how any human being can run that fast over that sort of
After a quick chat, and a few handshakes with thanks given to my guide, it was over to
the pub for a glorious meat pie (slightly spoiled by the young lad from Croydon
who seemed to take a shine to me and clearly wanted to talk at someone non-stop!
I escaped via the pub toilet, pie still in hand ).
:Well done Bus, and the marathon boys. Plus the Head for the Cornwall call up - solid effort at GSR today - I envy you getting that one raced, great event. Changes of travel plans can not have helped at all.
Bus - a proper report thatun.
Wool's so tasty these days, he can get pbs and still be disappointed, he'll need a big pb to be truly satisfied!
TR, 2.55 sounds tasty to me.
Just such a long run! Almost 3hours out there! Phew.
Today originally was for the 2nd year in a row a big decision between a race (GSR this year, Wokey half last) and Man Utd v Liverpool.
Same story - missed both
Did a "Long" run of 5miles though. Legs really not re-adjusting quickly to getting back on it, but the last mile was the quickest, suggesting not quite as much a slog as I'd thought.
20mile week, so we have a 0-0-3-20
However, the conch is the marathon boys this week, without doubt.
Sounds like decent enough runs there TR & Wool. Nice to hear of forum friends helping one another through the tough times. Given what the fizz had to say to you earlier in the week I'd say yours was a top result TR. What's the point in cheaty shoes anyway if you can manage that time without. Decent 10M MH though given your recent training & 5M times I too would've expected you to be a fair bit quicker at GSR. Probably burnt too many matches already this week with those tempo sessions.10.7M of hilly fire track for me: steady with a fast final 1200m. So that's 2 MLRs banked now. Should be good for Snowdonia on Saturday eh
Hope so Bus.
This week is a big week, as I'm actually driving to work for the first time in 5 weeks!
Slightly comedy timing, that this week the NHS 24hour blood pressure test has come through.
I'd almost forgotten that 162 being a concern what must have been about 6 weeks ago now, having a pal do a test as 138, and a doc herself take it as 140 1 day into vertigo, so I had wondered if they might have binned this.
However, might as well see how it comes out for a day! Bit higher than you'd like, but not a huge issue...;but on the other side, I can't do a huge amount more to keep it down
Bar not be a stress head nutter