Monday, 23 April 2012

Anniversary Waltz fell race

I've not done a 'proper' Lakeland fell race since the Three Shires in 2007, mainly due to not being keen enough to put the training in to do myself justice. When the Anniversary Waltz was added to this years Dashers fell race championship my interest was piqued. I knew the race was raved about by the 'cognoscenti' and I thought this might be a good opportunity to test myself and, if nothing else, see a part of the Lakes that I'd not really visited before. A crafty look at the entry list revealed that very few Dashers were going to be taking part: both the Jonathan's (Stubbs and Bruton), Kevin Smith, Pete Murphy, Sarah and myself .
The weather on the drive up was pretty changeable. One minute dry, then spitting, heavy rain, clear again but claggy on the tops and finally back to clear and dry. I'd taken Jonathan B up with me and we found Stubbsy, Pete and Sarah esconced in their respective camper vans in the car park field. It turned out that Kevin had gone awol and so only 5 Dashers took part. Jonathan B had proudly shown me his nice new Harveys waterproof map of the course that had taken a bit of time and effort to get in time for the race on the way up but when we entered the field where the race started and went through the kit check he had managed to leave it in the car! Luckily I had brought a few copies of the rather poor map downloaded from the event website and handed him one. We lined up ready for the off and I took a minute to admire the setting. The stunningly attractive hills of the Newlands Valley surrounded us and they were fortunately clear of clag.
Off we set and I found myself a little behind the Jonathan's and had to work my way up through the field to catch them. The initial stages of the race are pretty gentle and encourage you to pick the pace up however it pays to excercise a little caution as the race is 11.5 miles and has 3600' of climb. A big chunk of the climb comes early on with the ascent of Robinson. I'd done my homework and seen the profile of the race so had an idea of what was to come. On we trotted and after a while Stubbsy dropped behind. Now, on the first decent length fell race of the championship, Heptonstall, 'young' Jonathan had gone off to quick and suffered the consequences later on. I figured that he'd learned that lesson now and so sitting back and hoping that he'd crash and burn wasn't really going to be a good game plan. We reached the foothills of Robinson and, seeing as I was feeling good I thought I might as well play to my strength (note singular!) and put it in a bit on the climb.
I got my head down and gradually worked my way through runners ahead of me as they began, one by one to adopt the fell runners walk, and I managed to just keep jogging. Eventually it go so steep that I had to walk too but found it still possible to overtake, taking a wide line away from the the queueing masses. Nearing a summit I thought we might be pretty near the top. How wrong I was... There was about another 4 false summits before we reached the point where the real climbing started. And I mean real climbing. Hands and feet struggling for grip on the smooth rocks of the crags. A wrong move here and it could easily have resulted in serious injury or worse. I looked behind hoping that I'd dropped JB and couldn't help a rueful laugh to myself when I spotted him about 30 yards behind. I wasn't going to shake him easily! Finally reaching the true summit I couldn't help but pause and take in the views around me.
The next part of the race is a roller coaster along the summits around the valley. Plummet and climb. Hindscarth and then up towards Dale Head. I'd lead on the climbs and Jonathan would sprint away on the descents. The rocky descent of Dale Head was where it went downhill, literally and metaphorically. My trail shoes had offered poor grip before I'd reached this point and on the technical, rocky crags I found myself becoming overly cautious. My upcoming trip to the Pyrenees played on my mind and self preservation kicked in. Jonathan had no such worries and I could see him getting further and further in front.
High Spy reared up but and climbing advantage I had was now lost and I could see I was not making any ground. I slogged on and started to feel the tell tale twinges that warn of cramp as I reached the busy summit of Cat Bells. Weaving my way through the walkers I began the final descent. Ultra steep but grassy I was still struggling. Cramp in my left hammy and pain in my feet as my toes crushed against the front of my shoes due to the incline. No sign of JB ahead but by now I was more worried about being caught. When I got chance I shot a few rearward glances in case Stubbsy's flourescent yellow thermal top was in sight. I didn't spot him but I couldn't risk anything and pressed on towards the very welcome finish line.
Jonathan had finished almost 10 minutes in front of me, and had had another great run. Despite my struggles on the descents I was quite happy with 2:15. When we got back to the car and I checked my phone I found a text from Stubbsy informing me that he'd had to pull out after 3 miles. We both felt gutted for him.
We nipped back to the hall where we registered to get our free veggie chilli and beer (!!). Our times were checked on the preliminary results but there was no sign of Pete and Sarah's times by the time we left.
On the drive home we reflected on what had been a great day out. Jonathan Bruton goes from strength to strength with every race and it's great to see him enjoying taking part. As for me, apart from sore feet, I took away memories of a truly superb race route with magnificent views. Thanks to the organisers and marshalls.

Pic by I W Charters

Monday, 16 April 2012

Rota ride - Halifax

A 20 mile charity mtb 'challenge' in aid of the Roarty Club Halifax. I've done a couple of these rides before and quite enjoyed them so it was a good excuse to get out and ride somewhere new. Laughing Dave was very keen on and helped to persuade our Will that he'd enjoy it.
An early o' clock start with a last minute diversion due to an closed road led us over the border and finally to Greetland. Plenty of riders milling around. 'Everybody looks a bit serious.'said Will. And then we found Dave, who didn't. It became obvious that the three of us were all approaching the event from radically different directions. Dave kept calling it a race and was obviously champing at the bit. Will was doing his usual trick of worrying about things and thinking it was going to be massively hard. Me? Well I'd already decided that I was going to just ride round with Will so it wasn't going to be a killing pace. I was doing it on the Voodoo singlespeed and I'd been for a bit of a leg battering run the day before. A nice leg stretcher then.
We lined up in a field behind the community centre and then without much ado we set off. Dave disappeared in a trail of dust (I think he's got a supplier for EPO) and me and Will trundled along near the back. I took time to have a look at the bikes and riders around me. Fair play to the organisers for getting such a cross section taking part. Apart from blokes going to work on shonky owd sheds I don't think I have seen so many cantilever brakes, bar ends and  toe clips in one place for the last 20 years! There was a fair bit of elderly (and saggy) lycra on display too. Shudder. There was plenty of modern stuff too. A lot of full sussers. A bit overbiked for a genteel whiz round the countryside and back lanes of Halifax, I thought.
A few miles into the ride and once we had got some fields, rutted tracks and a bit of road under our belts we hit the first feed station. 'How are you finding it?' enquired the rotary club lady marshal. I almost laughed and said 'Well, it's not really started yet.' but the guy behind us started telling her how he was finding 'the moorland bits rather hard.' Hmm, this was about 3 miles into it...
On we went and I found I was quite enjoying myself. The sun was shining despite the cold, finger numbing breeze, and the route was engaging. Not technical at all but there were some nice bumpy descents and some stiff climbs that I amused myself on by riding past people hamster wheeling their trendy geared bikes on. Shallow I know. I had to wait at the tops for Will to catch up so they all rode past me again probably thinking that I'd killed myself getting past them and then blown up. Hey ho.
At one point we neared the M62, passing under it through a dark tunnel before riding alongside one of the many large reservoirs that the area was teeming with. The next feed stop soon arrived and the two friendly buffers who manned it earnestly asked if we thought the course was marked well enough. I assured them that it was, we had had no problems at all. It must have taken ages to place all the direction arrows around the convoluted course. It was well marshalled too, and there were loads of mountain rescue bods knocking about. 'Oh, very good. it's just that someone rode past us earlier and shouted that it needed more signs.' he said. 'You always get one' I said sagely, whilst munching on an Alpen bar. While we were here someone asked how far we'd come. It turned out we were just over half way. Will said he thought we'd only done about 5 miles. I couldn't quite decide if this meant that he was finding it so easy that the miles were flying by or that he is just crap at judging distance.
On we went, overtaking a group of three middle aged women. Fair play, I thought. Well, I did when they'd shut up rabbiting and stopped blocking the way.Plenty of climbing although a lot of it was on the road. Interesting back paths dropping us down little used routes giving us a sense of exploration as we continued. At one point we got to the end of a descent to be confronted by what looked like a very intricate steel tubing fence. 'Have we gone wrong?' asked Will. Going off the tyre prints in the mud we hadn't so I had another look and worked out it was a weird sort of turnstile thing. Very strange. Until now I had been quite smug in being able to clean every climb that the route had thrown at us. That went for a burton  as it was now steep, no run up, rocky, wet and slippery. It was pretty tricky to push up! Ah well, not such a riding god after all.
Yet another turning off a road led to a hidden downhill delight. This one was covered in that clayey mud that looks ok and encourages you to fly into it only to turn out to be actually bloody lethal. I had a bit of a moment, losing the front and nearly plunging down the drop to the side. Whoops! Waiting at the bottom it appeared that Will had done much the same. We shared a rueful chuckle. Through a farmyard now with what appeared to be all the Jersey cows in the world in it, and then up a steep concrete works road. Soon we were closing on the last feed station. I thought it seemed a bit odd to have one only 2 miles from the finish but it wasn't my gig so I had a swig of watery orange squash and another Alpen bar as I waited for Will. The middle aged women arrived at the same time and I tried to encourage Will to get his finger out by saying how close we were to the end as was he going to be beated by this lot?
Last steep climb of the day enlivened by the (worryingly close) sound of shotguns blasting, and we were on the road back to the community centre. 'Come on Will!' and he did, shooting past me before I could slipstream him, leaving me spinning like the clappers trying to catch him. Traffic chaos at the Centre due to riders leaving had us battling though them to get into the car park. Will's chain came off at this point and, bless him, he did the decent thing and ran in to finish. We were given our times (2 hours 40 odd) and some Rotary club baseball hats that looked a bit 'special needs' to me. We both vowed never to wear the bloody things.
We found Dave in the car park, all changed , fed and watered, ready to go home. He'd been there for quite a while having finished in a very respectable 2 hours dead. He was quite rightly pretty pleased with that and I think we all came away from the event having acheived what we wanted to do. There's a few more of these peculiarly Yorkshire Challenge rides coming up so we may have another trip o'er the border before the year is out.