Running - Offroad race (The Fellsman) 13:42:34  98.68 km (8:20 / km) +3576m 7:03 / km
shoes: Pegasus Trail 3
This was really tough - I knew it was going to be hard, but definitely underestimated the roughness of the terrain. Again, I knew there would be rough places, but from the map you can't tell that a lot of the marked rights of way are pretty non existent on the ground.
Registering Friday night had a maybe 30m queue and kit check was particularly rigorous - they checked every single item and weren't particular happy with the thumb compass, 'but it can't take bearings'...I convinced them eventually but it would be easier just to take a baseplate to kit check in future.
Nice Airbnb 20 mins away meant I only had to get up at 4:20 to leave 5:40 to arrive at 6am at the car park to get the minibus to the school to get the 6:30am bus to the start at 8:30am... Logistics all worked fine actually. Probably overkill on the safety side with the 'tally', manual clippy thing, live tracking, and an RFID thing, and race numbers. Felt coddled.
Nice start out of field with the start woman pointing to two exits, which I took the NE one of only to discover the fastest was a third SE route which i had actually planned on originally but Julian (veteran of like 20plus times) told me I couldn't get out that way. So enjoyed leading out the field only to discover 20 people had gone the other way. Soon back to the front
(Lawrence Eccles sent me a message before telling me I should be able to get top 3, for which I blame some of my exuberance. I don't think he'd looked at the start list!)
and chatting to the people around me, who it turned out included last year's winner, some guy called Damian Hall and Oli Johnson. I was obviously a bit worried that I had started too fast, but the pace felt fine so I thought I'd go with it. I've never really got on board with celebrity culture, but it was pretty cool to be running and chatting with Damian Hall.
Also saw Beth Pascall's husband Matt who recognised me from when I used to run with Bristol and West; I have no idea how. He dropped back right at the start to run with his friend so I didn't thinki would see him again.
Steady up Ingleborough and actually first to the CP. Then I was planning on NE following the path off the top, but everyone else was going due North so I went with that instead. Actually found a pretty grassy line down, so just a wall to get over to get back into the PW which was fine. Slightly behind the group but caught them just before Hill Inn (group of 6 at this point). Another in the group was Tim Martin, another orienter who I knew in NOC as a junior from EM squad weekends away. Small world!
Didn't stop at the CP so briefly leading Damian Hall (and everyone else) by at least 30 seconds after just over an hour's racing. Gotta take those once in a lifetime opportunities when they occur!
Maybe halfway up Whernside before we'd split into two distinct 3s from the original six - not a conscious decision to let the first 3 get away really, but we just couldn't take that pace anymore. So maybe up to a minute gap at CP3. Saw 4 or 5 people on the 1k out and back so knew we were doing pretty well at that stage. Tim cut too early down to Kingsdale (illegally! I think he just hadn't read the rules) and the other guy followed him, so I was on my own for a bit. Back together halfway down High Brown Pasture tho so if anything he lost a bit of time with his choice. Some rough terrain but easy enough to see where you wanted to come out, and all downhill so fine. Arrived at CP4 just as the top 3 were leaving. Just got water here again and so got some time back.
Went to the diagonal corner of the first field which I'm pretty sure was wrong as had to climb a wall, but there was a quad bike track on the other side. Then had to climb another wall just prior to the steep bit. I was just following the top 3, but I'm pretty sure the instructions said the route through these fields would be flagged (it wasn't). I don't think this gained or lost time; we had a slightly shorter route but had to cross 3 additional awkward walls. Anyway still only a minute ish behind the top 3 at CP5 Gragareth with Tim and the other guy just behind me.
Started to properly take it easy at this point, bit of fatigue from the three big climbs and starting to get apprehensive about just how much further there was to go. So the three of us went steadily along the ridge to Great Coum, which was boggy in a few places but mainly pretty good running. The other guys went through the CP slightly before me and it was amusing to see both of them pull their maps out while I caught up - this was the first time we'd been out of sight of the leaders.
I'd planned to go around the wall but the straightish route to cut the corner was too tempting and so I went with that - turned out to be a good line just to the E of the scree, but that was luck rather than judgement. Similarly steady down the stony track into Dent where again I just filled up with water and so gained a few minutes on the other two.
Easy along the road and then a bit of a trudge up the Dales High Way. I hadn't really clocked this section as being uphill when I'd planned the route and so it was a psychological struggle too. Slower down a bit and was caught by the two and then the first time we'd seen someone else who passed us just as we left the path.
The section across to Blea Moor Crag was the first really tough terrain of the race that was uphill rather than down, and coming after 20 or so miles it really took its toll. Another couple of people passed me up to CP9 and Tim and the other guy got away too. My line to the edge of the forest (gate) was dire as well; far better to cut left more aggressively and get to the path sooner. Someone who had no idea where they were going caught me and Tim here and kept asking if we were sure it was right.
Steady on the road into 10 as I was sure lots of people would stop here and I could gain a bit, and that was correct. This was the last time I saw the guy who'd been with Tim and I as part of the original group of 6 - I didn't get his name or number so no idea if he dropped out or not. I kept the stop to a minimum as per and started the next trudge. One of the guys who'd passed me previously had said he was going off his friends pacing who'd finished in 12:15 and that he'd done 6:15 and then 6, as the second half was a bit faster. He said we were on pace to get to Redshaw around that time and so I still felt okay at this point although a bit concerned about all the people overtaking! Near the start of the out and back to Great Knoutberry I was passed by Fiona Pascall (Beth's sister; same coach apparantly) looking ludicrously strong. She was using poles. I regretted my decision not to use poles.
About halfway up GK saw 3rd place coming down and so I knew I wasn't ludicrously far down. Then all the other people who'd passed me! So that was nice, since it felt like ages ago although it was around an hour I guess. After descending again the contouring trod gradually vanished and there was some more rough but flattish terrain to negotiate before Redshaw.
Looking at the splits I'd arrive at Redshaw after 6:20 which I was pleased with - just the manner of that 6:20 I guess hadn't been great. And then up to CP13 and down to the track, and then up to Dodd Fell and down again, were once again very rough. The sort of thing that usually I don't mind, but really hard after 30 plus miles. A guy called Phil (10th overall, 13 mins ahead of me) caught me halfway to Dodd and we stayed together to Fleet Moss. Stopped for a loo stop and so a few other people caught up. Saw Tim arriving just as I was leaving the CP.
Ran all the road section with Matt B (see a paragraph way up there somewhere) discussing the issues with being married to an elite athlete #firstworldproblems. Actually a really good chat and kept me going for that 45m or so. Passed Phil on the road and so was feeling ok at this point. After the bonus self-clip CP at Yockenthwaite, Matt left me on the climb - more rough terrain - (he ended up 7th, 51(!)mins ahead of me) but the guy with zero nav skills caught me up. He was a pretty grumpy guy. Took a low line across the moor on Richard C's advice and it was indeed nicer that was, but it was still tough running. Passed by another Tim (Tim C) who I've seen at other events (maybe the Lancashireman? Or the Three Towers Ultra? I can never remember) but I've always beaten him I think, so it was a bit of a blow when he overtook although I think he paced it super well (target was 13 and he did 13:02 for 9th).
Small amount of respite from the terrain after Hell Gap CP down to the road CP. Set off with Phil and his friend (they stayed together to the end finishing joint 10th in 13:30, and seemed to know each other's names) but at about the steam crossing I stopped to put on another layer as it was getting windy and cold. I'd had my waterproof on and off since Fleet Moss as it had been drizzling, bit it has also been fairly warm in the valley. Up to Buckden at 702m it was chilly and more exposed. Some more terrain corner-cuts uphill were really sapping, and this hill half killed me. I'd got away from grumpy at the CP but he caught me again along the ridge at the top.
Stayed on the wall for too long after it turned S after the memorial, (it looks best to leave at corner) and so had to backtrack a bit and still climb some pretty dodgy wall/barbed wire. Then more grim (probably the worst thus far) terrain down to the path, which once we were on was fine. I'd definitely change that bit of my route since I think that was largely avoidable pain. Grumpy followed me because he didn't know where the hell he was. At one point he turned to me and just said: 'Explain navigation'. I died a little bit inside.
Once at Starbotton the terrain was okay for a bit and I managed to pick up the pace and get a bit of a gap before the last bit road CP before the final climb. I should've put waterproof trousers on here but I didn't consider it, just got more water and set off straight away. Definitely didn't want to stop! But at least confident at this point I'd finish. Jake had said to me beforehand that it would be awesome to be officially 'a Fellsman' - but for the last 7 hours I'd been considering what it would mean to retire from it - officially NOT a Fellsman? I didn't want that confirmed.
It was getting very windy, cold, rainy and dusky to to Great Whernside and so I took (vague) shelter behind a rock on the ridge pretty much at the top to apply an additional waterproof coat (the kit list was 5 upper body layers so I had two coats) and the trousers. Took the opportunity to take the torch out of the back pocket and put it somewhere accessible, so I didn't have to faff anymore than necessary #planning.
I had to shout at the marshals huddled inside the tent for them to hear me over the wind.
Due to the increasing clag and encroaching darkness, I was super keen to get below the fog line before it got properly dark, and clag and torches (especially with wind and rain) are never good fun. So picked up the pace down to Capplestone, mostly good trod until the last hundred metres, and put the headtorch on just after the CP. It's a shame I wasn't 15mins or so faster because the bit down from the CP to the path was awkward in the dark and I lost some time in the terrain. But after the turn at Kelbar, everything was on good wide trods and marked with red flashing beacons and reflective flags, so that was fine. It was around there when I thought 'I'm totally alone: no torches ahead of me and no torches be...' *glances around; sees 4 torches* 'arrgh, got to keep going!!'
Position didn't really bother me at this point really, I thought I was probably top 20, I just didn't want to get overtaken so near to the end. So section from Kelber to the end, I pretty much smashed, or at least it felt like I did.
I was glad it was the end. The kitchen lady gave me table service because I looked like such a wreck.
Ended up 12th which was better than I thought, so some of the people who'd overtaken fairly early must have dropped out I guess. Or I imagined them, which is equally possible. But whatever - I'm a Fellsman, however deserved or undeserved...
Very glad I did it but I think I might go in right at the top of my 'hardest things' list. I've done that distance and that terrain before, but both together is just really really hard. Obviously I set off too fast, and there are a couple of routes I'd take slightly differently, which means I'm going to have to do it again. I think my (based on basically nothing) original goal of 12 hours may well not be achievable for me, but I think getting my supplementary goal of finishing in 12:40, and thus in the light, might be doable.
It's at least a year away, anyway, so I have sufficient time to forget the experience. Worth noting that conditions were excellent this year, especially for the first 7 hours or so, and anything other that than would slow times down and increase difficultly significantly.
Main takeaway though - no new injuries, and no hip or knee pain that I often get on long stuff. One advantage of the terrain being so non-solid I think :)
Nutrition: 7 Clif bars at 90 min intervals (ish) + 6 Bloks.
Drunk 9 bottles (4.5L water I think; started with 2 and filled up 7 times. I don't think I ever filled more than one, so I could probably have only carried a single bottle. Wouldn't want to risk that on a warm day, though).