2 races in a weekend? That's the kind of malarky that Chris and Caity get up to... not something for me, especially when the second of the 2 races is a Glossopdale champs counter. Yet here I am, waking up the day after the 3 peaks, staring down the barrel of the Kinder Downfall.
Its only a 10 miler or so... whats the problem?
The legs felt ok-ish after a 15 min massage, a decent quantity of food and a couple of beers last night. That being said, it was quite obvious that once we started up the road at the beginning of the race, fatigue would really kick in, and I'd probably end up walking fairly quickly.
Lynne, who is in training for a marathon in May decided that she would run over to Hayfield, to get a few miles in her legs before doing the race, so I set off in glorious sunshine - completely contrary to what the weather forecast was on Friday - to get to Hayfield in plenty of time for the start.
We got there pretty much at the same time, and ended up getting a pair of shoes each from the ever delightful Pete Bland travelling van, who always graces this particular event.
Despite the sun, there was a bit of a chill wind blowing - though at the pace we would soon be running at, it wouldn't make too much of a difference on the tops.
Having pretty much destroyed my x-talons yesterday at the 3 peaks, I ended up racing in my Salomon Fellraisers. A clear, dry day, I figured that they shouldn't be slippy at all, given the decent rock that is on the tops.
Pre-race banter followed, and we all headed over to the start where Dave gave us a safety briefing and a stern word to endure we were all back in time for him to get to the pub for the Arsenal match.
From the off, the pace was ridiculously high - Chris Leigh was out the front setting a stonking pace. Although Phil Winskill was down from the lakes, and Tom Brunt the perennial Holmefirth based Dark Peaker was also running, they kept their heads and let him have his head. A little further back down the field, I watched as Chris pulled out the stops on the first climb, and he pulled away from me quite easily, despite him having the 3 peaks in his legs as well. As much as I wanted to walk, I wasn't going to let him have a victory over me that easily.
Sharp left onto Snake path, and I found a shuffling rhythm that saw me get a couple of places, though there were a decent amount of runners strung out in front of me - Steve Knight and Chris, followed by Ben T from GDH. This was going to be a bit of a hard race just from our perspective, let alone everyone elses. I squeezed past Neil Mc and Caity, and started what should have been a very easily runnable ascent over the fields to White Cabin. The legs started to complain a bit, so I duely told them to shut up, and just get on with it, trying my best to keep Chris in sight. Steve, who hadn't handicapped himself by running 23 miles yesterday.... well, he could do what the hell he wanted.
Over to White cabin, and there were 6 runners in front of me, and behind Chris, including Steve Watts from Pennine. I figured I might gain a little on Chris on the easy run down the path towards the stream crossing, but it wasn't until the really steep rough descent that I made up time on him- and overtook all the runners in front at the same time.
These places were then promptly lost as they all came back past me on the flat and the beginning of the climb up William clough. There is a pattern here... if there is a steep, gnarly descent, I gain. Anything else, I lose. Now, how many more horrible descents are there on this race.... um, none.
This could get difficult.
Up William clough, Chris asked me if I was enjoying the back to back racing on a weekend. My retort was not necessarily lengthy as I tried my hardest to stay with him. All the way up the clough, different lines were taken by different people, positions were gained and lost, but in all, it was much of a muchness - with Chris eventually leading us out the top of the clough, with me following and Steve Watts in close pursuit. A little ahead of us was Dark Steve - having a stonking run - and we tried to catch him up on the steep climb up Kinder corner. Chris pulled away a little bit - his experience of double racing was showing through, and it was with great relief that we topped out, getting a quick drink from Simon and Jude who were out supporting.
Chris continued to pull away from me, and seemed to be reeling Steve in as well, so I dug in and continued running. Legs feeling heavier and heavier, but every step that I walked, Chris would get further away from me. Not going to happen.
Along the plateau edge we ran, trying not to stumble over rocks, trying to find shortcuts that should have been there if we were at all clear headed. I slowly managed to bring Chris closer to me along the rougher sections, and just before the Downfall was able to overtake. I then missed the cut across to the downfall and took a slightly longer line than necessary, but luckliy, Chris followed me. Steve Watts got the cut and ended up ahead of us, and he never looked likely to be threatened by us stumblers again.
Just past the Downfall, Mark Purcell, another Penniner shot past at a pace I certainly wasn't going to match, but the main concern now was keeping the pace up and keeping Chris behind me. Across rock and dust and mud we went, legs getting heavier, co-ordination going and sugar crash imminent, I planned to have a gel just past Red Brook. As we went past it, I ostentatiously pulled the gel from my bag, hoping that the image of me consuming sugar would put those off behind me, and sucked it down.
I'd like to think that I immediately turbo-charged myself and zoomed off into the distance, but to be honest, I don't think that exactly happened, as Chris got into conversation with me as we hit the next trig point, and we talked about the route we were meant to be taking... it turned out that my recollection was wrong, but last time I did this race was in 2012, and I had a migraine - which wasn't actually conducive to running very well.
|Playing the invisible piano as I prepare to jump a stile in style. Thanks to Will Griffiths for the photo|
Not to worry, keep on as best I can.
Down, across and over the Pennine Bridleway, past Geoff who was marshaling, and across to the final fields. No time to relax as I was pretty sure Chris was still breathing down my neck, but my legs were close to cramping, so no real opportunity to open up, else I'd have ended up on the floor in writhing agony. The guy in front was pretty much long gone, no way was I going to catch him.... but this was about not getting caught.
Over a couple of stiles where my nearly cramping hip flexors shouted at me and made me shout as well, the long grassy downhill to Luvshacks, and then the road type section. Footsteps behind me, so just keep going. Keep going.
Des was at the bottom shouting "this is the hardest bit"... I know that Des, my legs feel like they've already fallen off. Its all I can do to keep going. We must be in the final 2 k by now, maybe even the last k. Dark Steve is gone, as are Steve Watts and Mark P. I'm stomping down the track now, as fast as I can, with no idea how close Chris is, the path goes on for a very long time before turning into the road... which again goes on for a long time before the sharp right left, into the play area that curves around into the final field.
Lungs burning and legs not entirely obeying my command, I muster a final surge to the line and come in 21st. Chris, 22nd.
Not entirely sure on the time, but I think about the same as the migraine time... so not all that bad.
Chris Leigh did indeed win, with Tom Brunt in 2nd and Phil Winskill in 3rd. Steve "the Dark" Knight was 1st GDH home in 13th, and earns 30 points in the Championships. Caity was first Glossopdale lady home, and 2nd overall, giving her an impressive 3rd in the 3 peaks and 2nd in Downfall the next day - an excellent weekend out by anyones standards.
It was great to see Julien and Matt Dawson out on the finish line, cheering us all in, and joining in the post race banter, and it was superb to see a long absent Matt Kieras doing his bit, racing on the Downfall after quite a time away.
And the sun is still out,
I'm going to have a bit of a rest now.
Oh, no. Actually, this afternoon is filled up with work. Nice. Recovery can wait til this evening.