Sunday, 18 March 2012

Heptonstall fell race

For years (and years and...) I have been doing fell races of the smaller nature. 6 to 10 miles has been plenty for me. So why, we ask, did I enter the Heptonstall fell race? 15 miles and 3000' of climb. It wasn't going to be easy was it? Anyhoo, filled as I am with the desire to complete the Dasher fell race series I entered.
Luckily enough the weather could not have been better. Cool but sunny. NO RAIN. Signing on it emerged that there were only 5 Dashers there. Well 6 if you count Sarah taking pics at the start. Mark Walsh who is on the form of his life was never going to be anything but 1st Dasher. Also starring was 'Young' Jonathan Bruton, Kev Smith and Pete Murphy as well as yours truly. We started off on the cobbles of the picturesque village of Heptonstall (imagine a mini Haworth) and were soon dropping into the first steep valley. Mark W buggered off ( natch) with Jonathan not that far behind. As this was the longest race I've ever done (I know -the shame) I decided the best course of action was steady away.
15 miles is a looong way. No, it really is. Up and down. Across occasionally. Bogs, tussocks and a lot of mud. I had to work hard at keeping my pace in check at first. After a while I didn't. I just had to work hard. At one point I spotted a yellow vest in front of me so I put it in and gradually reeled him in. Eventually I caught him. To my disappointment it turned out to not be Jonathan but some bloke with glasses on. Bugger.
On we went, eventually dropping down to a large reservoir which we then skirted. Part way along the track we came across my mate Ady from Accy, the SportSunday photographer, lying in the track taking photos (what are the chances?). I couldn't help breaking into a big grin ( see link above).
At another of the intermninable valleys that the race was littered with I glanced back and spotted Kev Smith behind me. Kev is a really decent distance runner. I am not. I got my finger out. Ah, pride.
A long time later I became aware that there was a change in the atmosphere amongst the runners around me. A tangible buzz and a picking up of speed. Being a luddite and not using the new fangled devices like GPS and er, watches I rightly surmised that we were nearing the end. I had done a bit of research and knew that the race's final climb was up from the Blue Pig and that there was rumoured to be around 100 steps involved. This may have been a cause for despair amongst some, but not me. As a one trick pony - and that trick is climbing - I had a little mental jump for joy. I had an even bigger one when I saw a yellow vest above me on the climb. This time it actually was Jonathan. Ooh, game on!
Just as I was hoping to creep up on him he looked back. I waved energetically and grinned. He gave me a look that said many things. 'I am tired'. 'I have had enough now'. 'No, actually, I am not really that pleased to see you although I am prepared to give a little wave back'.
I started to nip past people. 5 behind. 4 behind. A bit of a body swerve and 3 behind. We reached the top of the climb. I was buzzing and said to the marshal 'That was brilliant!' He seemed confused. Over a stile and across a field. I found I could run where others were walking. Gradually, gradually I reeled Jonathan in. And then passed him. I didn't speak as
a. I didn't want him to think I was taking the piss
b. Couldn't think of anything appropriate
and c. Actually I couldn't speak.
A road crossing to negotiate and then a field ahead with a big red flag at the crest of the hill. I remembered that hours ago at the start there was a field next to the car park with a red flag in it where the finish was. Tunnel vision now, everything was about reaching that flag and stopping all the pain. I staggered on, passing a couple of people. I reached the flag. It wasn't the finish. 'Oh, fuuuu...!!' Another two big red flags and then the real finish. The lovely, lovely real finish. I staggered faster and again passed somebody. Nearly there now. One ahead of me. Can I catch him? I lurched faster into what I fondly imagined was a sprint finish. Just as I was about to duck past him and pip him some swine shouted 'Come on Striders, there's one right behind you.' and he sped up. Bloody unsporting if you ask me!
Orange juice and Nice biscuits at the finish. Jonathan came in not long after me looking a bit broken. Good experience though and a lesson learnt about pacing. He won't let that happen again and I will soon be bragging about finishing in front of him. Mark Walsh was waiting at the finish and had had another superb run finishing 6th overall. Wow! Kev soon arrived back and then Pete a short while later.
I have to say that I really enjoyed this race. At times it was a bit of a grovel and I did a good bit of suffering BUT I did it, was still fairly human at the finish and yet again finished second Dasher. Big up to the organisers of the race, they did a superb job. All in all a great day out. Next up - Liver Hill. That'll be a different kettle of fish.

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