Monday, 11 July 2011

Wasdale Fell Race 2011

Just got back from a fantastic weekend in the Lakes. Mark drove us up to Wasdale late Friday night for my favourite race of the year the following morning.

I was a little apprehensive; I missed last year's race due to knee trouble and this year have not managed to put in the training I would have liked (does this ever happen?) so I wanted to stick to a plan of starting slower than I would have liked to maybe get to Seatallan 10 or 15 mins down on previous years in the hope that I can finish faster. I need to stop making plans.

I was impressed with the turnout at the start there looked to be over 200 runners gathered in the sunshine - the conditions were forecast to be good. The clouds were down over the top of the screes and I was careful not to run too fast, sticking behind a group of four or five; I still reached the checkpoint over a minute faster than ever (I have only run Wasdale twice before).

I decided to run in my trail shoes; previously by Great Gable in fell shoes my legs, especially my knees have been really sore from the rough ground and it just gets rougher from then on so I chose a bit more cushioning to see if that would help. This meant sacrificing some grip though on the descents which showed itself running down to cross the valley to Greendale but it served to slow me down enough to reach the second checkpoint a few minutes down so still not quite according to plan.

I was almost glad to reach the rockier ground having got a bit sick of trying to get going over all the boggy grass but I was already getting tired by the time I cleared Pillar which was just poking into the clouds. The descent to Black Sail was hard going too and this was the start of a bad patch which lasted until Sty Head.

There are a couple of points in this race that always stick in my mind, one of them being the imposing sight of Great Gable rearing up as you contour round Kirk Fell; I have always been suffering by that stage and the thought of trying to climb that is hard to bear.

Leaving the Gable checkpoint I was getting the beginnings of cramp especially under my feet of all places! I couldn't attack the descent at all but it was good to see Mark and Pauline waiting at Sty Head; Mark even shouted a few hints once he saw me directing me down the grassy bits.

I tried to smile but it came out as more of a grimace.

I had a big drink thanks to Pauline which perked me up then ate some food on the way up to Esk Hause, there was a nice cool breeze on my back which seemed to propel me up to the pass. The other image that sticks in my mind is the first sight of Scafell Pike summit in the distance, knowing that from that point on it's all downhill to the finish.

I managed to stave off the cramps by stuffing food and water down my throat and I think this was the main reason I felt much better over the final few miles. It's a great feeling (psychologically if not physically!) dibbing at Scafell Pike and setting off down to the finish, though I can never do that descent justice at the end of this race; it's better tackled in the shorter races - both Lingmell Dash and Scafell Pike races head down Lingmell nose - today my body wouldn't go as fast as my mind was telling it to I was hurting pretty much from the chest down.

Approaching the last checkpoint at the bottom of the final descent.
I got a second helping of encouragement from Pauline and Mark at the last checkpoint then it was just a painful jog to the finish where I had a nice sit down on the grass in the warm sun completely exhausted and over the moon! My time was about half way between my slowest and fastest but they're all within 6 or 7 minutes of each other so I can't complain, I was just glad to get round.

Once again thanks to all involved with putting the event on especially Rhys Findlay-Robinson this year who stepped in when Richard unfortunately couldn't spare the time.

As ever Ian's blog captures the atmosphere of the day and also Pauline added some photos here.