Monday, 20 July 2009

Kentmere Horseshoe


Did I say Wow? Wow!

After committing myself to doing Kentmere I had been a little apprehensive all week thinking I had bitten off a bit more than I could chew. With the downpours during the week I was worried the weather might not be too good at the weekend and on Friday and Saturday I'd had headaches. I think I was getting a little panicky.

Joanne hadn't been feeling to good on Saturday and was diagnosed with a bacterial infection in her ear and Vertigo. At 4Am on Sunday morning I was woken to find Joanne trying to negotiate the few meters from the bed to the en-suite. Being the gentleman I am I let her sleep on my side as it was closer to the bathroom. It was at that point I heard the rain hitting the conservatory roof, it sounded torrential. Being on the wrong side of the bed I woke up about 4-5 more times between then and 8AM and all I could hear EVERYTIME I woke was the rain pounding on the plastic roof outside the window.

None of my usual 20 pieces of toast for breakfast this morning, I was an athlete (quicker that quick, faster than fast, LIGHTNING! Ka-Chow). Weetabix and bananas, but without the bananas as they weren't in a good state, and some juice. Still raining I told Joanne that if the weather was bad when I got up there then I wouldn't be doing the race, what can I say I'm a fair weather runner!

I headed off and collected Gordon Stone, a fellow club member. Gordon and I have our own little race on now that started at the Henderson's End fell race, Leading me throughout the race I thought I had no chance of catching him however Gordon can't go downhill over rocky ground and suddenly I passed him just before the finish, crossing the line some 50 secs ahead of him, thanks to the cobbled road, and since then when re race together, Gordon is now my target. Gordon Hadn't pre-entered and we didn't know if entry on the day was possible but he would use it as a training run if not.

We arrived at Kentmere around 12PM and there looked to be a good turnout with still more arriving. The clouds in the sky had started to break and the day was getting quite warm. We headed up to registration and entry on the day was ok so Gordon would be running (Race on!). Back at the car I faffed a little about what to wear. I'm a bit of a girl really and don't like to be cold on hills, but a long sleeve top seemed over kill and I a vest alone might leave me a little chilly on the peaks, so I headed over to Pete Blands van and bought a short sleeve tee and wore my Horwich vest on top of it. I chose to put Vaseline on my feet, not something I normally do but because I got a blister last weekend in my new Mudrocks and was worried a little I might get more today.

We all (240 runners) gradually headed for the start line just besides the field and I took up my place at the rear of the pack, being as I expected to end up there anyway. After a brief talk from Pete Bland we headed off. It's always at about 1/2 mile into the race I wonder what they hell I am doing and why am I doing it. I never warm up and just try to take the start easy but end up out of breath quite quickly and 1/2 a mile into a 12 mile race that isn't a good sign.

I was sure Gordon started the race behind me but somewhere very soon after starting I caught sight of him ahead of me. The race follows a stony track for around 3/4 mile before heading uphill towards Buck Crag. It was here with the sun shinning bright, the heat coming off the bracken and steady incline that I was beginning to think wearing a tee was a bad idea. Onwards and upwards I plodded on passing Gordon who has stopped to put more Vaseline on his feet after feeling a little rubbing. Near the top of the crag I had to take a moment from staring at the Totley ladies feet in front of me. I'll use the excuse that the bright pink sock and lime green shoe laces were blinding me rather than saying I was a little knackered. Unfortunately Gordon took this opportunity to pass me again.

Finally at the top of the crag the ground levelled out a little. The ground here seemed much more like the ground I have seen on races like Shepherds Skyline and Paddy's pole. Of the few races I have done in the lakes I normally find it all very stony so I was a little surprised. Following the other runners here I climbed over a fence and passed one retiree heading back to the start. She commented to me that the worst was behind me now however I was going to comment that "No, the worst was behind her" which is where I was heading. From here you follow the side of the wall before joining the main path up towards Yoke however before you reach the summit the race route contours around Yoke to join the path on its way back down from Yoke towards Ill Bell on the other side. Feeling tired already I decided to take one of the energy gels I had brought along thinking that by the time it kicked in I'll probably need it. On the climb up to Ill Bell I could see Gordon who was by now engaged in conversation with the girl from Totely but I couldn't pick up the pace to catch them but that wouldn't matter. Eventually I reached Checkpoint 1 at the top of Ill Bell where the marshal was on the phone with a friend and mentioned Pete Bland was having a BBQ tonight (I don't remember getting an invite though).

Now I'd lost sight of the runners in front of me and wasn't sure where to head down from the top I knew the general direction and managed to pick out a stony path, upon which I quickly spotted Gordon and the Totely girl. As I said before, Gordon can't descend to well so now was my time to take a lead from him. I managed to pass him and found so grass at the side of the path and made a quicker descent, suddenly another runner appeared to my left who must have known of another route from the peak and he headed off with a little more confidence than I had. Carrying on as the downhill changed to a slight uphill I found my pace turned into more of a walk to catch my breath. I think it was here that the gel started to work as I when I started running across the screes below Frostwick I caught two other runners, one of which was a lady from Abbey runners who would later be a help to me. Before we joined the main path I think we took the wrong line but line we took was fine by me and probably didn't make much difference in the scheme of things.

The path now starts its steady climb towards Thornwaite Crag but then the path forks where you reach two metal posts and we take the right hand path away from Thornwaite Crags towards High Street. Just before this fork I was passed by a man who had, the day before, run the Ingleborough race. I had originally pencilled Ingleborough after not having the courage to do it last year, until I found out that Kentmere was listed as a Club Champs race, so maybe next year now. Anyway I am normally happy to just follow somebody else but rounding a corner near the stream (Noted on the race map as a source of water) I noticed a runner further ahead; however this man who had just passed me had headed for the stream. I was in two minds about which way to go and decided to take the faint path to the left towards the runner further ahead. A few seconds later I looked down and the man looked at me questioning if HE was going the right way but by that point I knew I was as I was on higher ground and could see a few more runners ahead.

Now the final plod up to High Street. The ground would probably have been quite runnable had this been my weekend run over Winter Hill but by this point I had done nearly 5-6 miles and possibly about 2500' - 2700' of climb and was tiring, I ran in spurts and tried to take on water and some salted nuts when I wasn't running. Finally I could see the marshals at checkpoint two. Just as I approached the marshal Gordon came chasing up behind me in an effort to beat me to the checkpoint and just passed me before we reached them. I wasn't too worried though as I knew I'd get him on the downhill again. We both turned and looked for the path away from the summit and Gordon took the one of the man who had gone by the stream. I wasn't convinced this was the right path but started to follow Gordon but then I looked back and the Abbey runners lady had taken a path slightly left. I hesitated and moved towards her path as I felt this was the right path to be on but as it turned out, both paths went to the same place anyway so I shouldn't have bothered worrying. By this point, due to my hesitation Gordon had started to buildup a lead on me as had the abbey lady. I then picked up the pace downhill as we headed for down towards Nan Bield Pass. The Group I was with (Abbey, Totely and Gordon) all at one point had started to follow the guy who had previously headed for the stream but again something told me the route was wrong and I saw a faint trod heading towards the left and what looked to be the craggy path up towards Harter Fell but this time I thought I'll just go with the crowd to where the ground seemed to head downwards and see if I still think he is wrong. However within about 15 secs or so the man in front turned and headed back towards us, realising he had headed wrong and all the other runners stopped and started to head back and left towards where the faint path had led. I knew I should have followed my instinct, it's all experience though! On passing Gordon he has started to get blisters on his feet and told me he would need to ask at the next checkpoint if they had any plasters. I hate blisters but have been really lucky with the mudrocks and so far they had been really comfortable.

Back on the main path down I managed to pull out a lead on the group but on starting the ascent, I didn't have much left. It was at this point I decided to break out my 2nd gel in the faint hope it would give me what I needed to get up to Kentmere Pike. The group (minus Gordon) now walked together on the steepish ascent towards Harter Fell. We all knew that we needed to head off on a path to the right but some went sure how far up we had to go and seemed cautious about missing it. I had been looking for this path on the way down the last descent and had seen runners heading across it. It didn't look like it would be hard to miss and then we reached a point in the climb where the path was visible and it was indeed obvious where to head. The Totley lady and the stream guy (Sorry don't know which club you ran for) started to jog off, I was still low on energy and waiting/hoping for the gel to kick in but it wasn't. I managed to jog, walk, jog, walk but I don't think the jogging made that much difference to my pace. I passed 4 people coming the opposite way along this path who seemed to be supporting the race and they offered me a drink of Lucozade which I gladly took along with few more words of encouragement from them before I headed on towards Kentmere Pike.

The ascent up to Kentmere Pike from here again isn't a big one and one I could have managed had I by now not done about 3000' of climbing and 8 miles. I was really running out of energy here, the gel hadn't seemed to have kicked in and the lady from Abbey runners caught up to me. At the time she passed me I was stood still with my hands on my knees catching my breath. Concerned she asked if I was alright. I told her I just had nothing left and was catching my breath. We started to walk together and she offered me a Nutrigrain bar that she said she could spare. I tried to keep up with her but couldn't, I thanked her again and slowed down to try and eat the Nutrigrain bar. Never have I struggled to eat a tiny cereal bar as much as I did then. Eating seemed like it was in slow motion. The chewing action seemed pointless, I didn't have the energy for it but slowly I managed to get the bar down and continued towards the two marshals I could see by now upon Kentmere Pike, Checkpoint 3. On reaching the marshals I had started to get "a little" bit of energy, maybe the gel was finally kicking in or the Nutrigrain bar was working quickly but I had something that made me feel better that I did at the base of that final climb. The marshals told me I wasn't last, which I knew anyway as Gordon was still behind me somewhere. When I looked I could see his red top a way back and I told the marshals that he may be asking for a first aid kit for plasters to aid his blisters. They said they had some blister plasters they would get out for him and I headed off for the final descent to Kentmere.

I'd read the map notes and knew I needed to take a "faint runners path" towards a style in the wall, however I had lost sight of the Abbey and wasn't sure if this mark in the grass here was the path I should follow. I did follow it and as the ground started to drop down I caught sight of the Abbey lady off to my left. I had come off to soon so I needed to make my way across to the path she was on and by now could see the stile I needed to head for. On the downhill I started to pick up speed and began catching her up. by the time I reached the stile she was now only about 100m in front of me. I climbed over the stile and took a look back to see a couple of runners heading down the hill behind me. The ground now had a few puddles and small streams which rather than avoiding I just waded through, letting the cold water refresh my feet. I could have stopped stood in the water for ages but I continued on through the wet ground not wanting the runners behind me to pass me and caught up with the lady from Leeds. I didn't want to try and pass her though as she had been my savior with a Nutrigrain bar. As we descended she advised me that we needed to be on a lower path and headed down a grassy path I probably wouldn't have noticed but I stuck with her as she had obviously done this race before. All I knew was that I needed to head for the white house which by now I could see. On the descent too I had seen the field with all of the cars, the finish line wasn't too far away. Yeah right!!!

On the final part of the descent I followed the lady through the bracken towards the white house. Again in the bracken the heat hit me and I just wanted to take off my tee but didn't. The tee had been fine all the way round apart from at one point on the climb to Ill Bell when I was shaded from the wind. There was so much bracken on this path I thought I would end up in Narnia or something but eventually we came out at the white house and the run in. This is where I started to get the warning twinges of cramp coming on. I probably needed more salt as I had been regularly taking water en-route but I was on the run in, it can't be far now, I'll wait until I get to the finish and rest!

The run in was the WORST part of the whole race, after the twinges in my calf I took a moment to walk and the lady headed off away from me. I didn't expect the run in to be so long. I followed the tape markers and tried to run but everytime I tried my calve would react with a twinge to warn me it was having NO MORE! Jog, WALK, Jog, WALK along this path that seemed never ending and I also realised that I hadn't seen a marker for a while (being as the run in was supposed to be marked). Now I was wondering if I had taken a wrong turn but continued on anyway on this neverending run in, I was also aware that the couple of runners I had seen behind me hadn't passed me yet and I had done enough walking for them to have passed me. Eventually, a marker, through the gap in the wall and over the bridge and back onto a track road. After a couple of minutes I caught sight of the finish line, it was nearly over. I had manged to trot down this track road keeping the paces short didn't seem to anger my disgruntled calve muscle. Finally I joined the main road downhill leading to the entrance to the field and the finish line, crossing the finish line in 2hrs 54mins (230th) for my longest ever fell run to date.

The abbey lady had already finished and was sat near the finish line with friends. I went over and thanked her for her help then headed back to the finish line for the water. I sat on the grass and rested, drank some water and waited for the next finishers to cross the line. After a few minutes the next two runners crossed the line and to my surprise it was the stream guy and the Totley lady. Eh? "How did you come in behind me, you were way ahead of me?" I asked. It appears they took the wrong line down from Kentmere and I think they were the two runners I saw behind me as I climbed the stile. Also I suspect the move to the lower path was also one they didn't take and they ended up on a slightly longer descent. Either way I had made up a couple of places by sticking with the Abbey lady, so if she does ever read this, then she knows who she is, THANK YOU! again.

Still waiting for Gordon to finish I headed back to sit in the boot of the car and eat an egg butty that had warmed itself up the car during my race. I saw young Al Fowler and Emma Gregory and discussed that god awful run in. Emma commented on how she had a terrible race, which seems to be how she finishes all her races. After speaking on the forums a few times I met her at Harrock hill a few months back and she said she had a bad race, then I met her again at Two Lads fell race and she complained again stating her legs only start working after 10 miles. At Skiddaw, she had an awful race and now Kentmere was a bad race. Some women are never happy!! Back at the car I took off my shoes and checked for blisters, none! Bargain. Eventually, some 12 minutes behind me Gordon crossed the line. When he got back to the car he took of his mudclaws to reveal a huge mathcing pair of heel blisters. I was glad he had those and not me. I would have still been on the hill if I had those.

We stayed for the prize giving having a quick chat with Colin, Suzanne and Rachel. Gordon agreed to do a write up for the Horwich RMI Blog so we noted the club runners finishing times and then headed home. I fancied fish for tea so called at the chippy for a nice and healthy Fish, chips and gravy and picked up a bottle of Magners to. When I got home I pulled on the drive and the kids came running over, not to greet me but I had McDonalds in the car for them. Isn't it awful when you can see that something about to happen and you can't do anything about it. I saw the way Oliver was holding the car door and as he started to push it closed, I shouted "WATCH YOUR FINGERS!!". There was a momentary silence, I hoped to see him start walking away from the car, but then he screamed. I jumped for the door and opened it again. The poor little man had trapped his thumb in the door, that was him in a mood for the rest of the night and my tea would now have to wait another 30 mins whilst I felt guilty and spent time trying to calm him down. Eventually though he calmed down and sat and ate his tea on Joanne's knee. There was going the be a nice bruise on that in a few days I'll bet.

Later on in the evening I was relaxing after watching Top Gear and had just started watching James Cracknell 'On Thin Ice' being stupid, ignoring the blisters on his feet whilst heading for the south pole (Some people do some stupid things) when my calve decided it was strong enough to teach me a lesson. BANG! cramp! AAAARRRRGGGHHHH!!!!! Josh looked at me scared as I rolled around the couch in agony. I had to tell him I was alright to calm him down. After about what seemed like about 2 mins eventually my calve relaxed, Josh had already lost interest in my pain and carried on watching On Thin Ice. Off to bed earlish, but the following morning I felt awful. I felt as if I had been hit by a train. As I sat down for work I hoped I wouldn't be like this all day and thankfully I wasn't. As the day went on my body recovered and I reflected on the achievement of the previous day.

Sorry for such a long tale, but it was a bit of an epic day for me.

Thanks to everyone for putting the race on, organisers and marshalls, the supporters on route and the runners I ran with. See you all next year!

Below are the now infamous Gordon (269), Totley Lady (210), Abbey Lady (17) and stream man (155)

Photos are taken from here:


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  2. Good first post there Mark - keep up with the racing, we'll only get better with the lakeland stuff by running in the lakes. Oh and I WILL have a good race, just wait and see!!

  3. What a good read that was! I've only being running for a couple of years and I have been running up Garburn, heading for Thornthwaite Beacon. I haven't made it to the Beacon yet, but I will keep trying. One day I might have ago at the Horseshoe run. Thanks for the inspiration.

  4. I'd forgotten how long a read this one was. Glad you liked it.