The Middle of 3 days of Madness in May. Longest of the race, and certainly the most suffering. Mount Famine is 5 miles of high amusement and leg burning ascents.
After the pre-race banter we had a bit of a wander over to the start to scope out the best line up Elle Bank, which was particularly squidgy this year.
Daz and I chatted for a bit about the best line (there isn't one) and how to not completely blow yourself up in the first 4 mins of the race.
Soon enough we all lined up, I was over to the far right this year, and on the Go we hammered up the bank, slipping and sliding all the way.
By the time we had got through all the brambles and trees and vertical turks heads on perhaps the best start to a fell race anywhere, we hit the top, with the guy that won yesterday way out ahead, essentially doing a Simon Bailey.
MarkO was just in front of me, along with 2 others, one of whom I managed to overtake- then on the next little uphill section Tom Brunt came ambling past, as did Ross Litherland. Down and up, I managed to get a little bit of time back on the first hard climb, went past a load of guys who were walking, and was even catching up with Tom ,but then the climb went on for longer... and I started going backwards. MarkO and the others came past and I ended up chasing them all the way along Dragons Back.
Tom was disappearing into the distance as were the gaggle of 5 in front of me, there was another 1 or 2 in close attendence behind me and there were huge thoughts of just stopping and having a bit of a sit down.
The pace didn't slow, and ahead of me, it was certainly speeding up a bit, so I lost some time, and I tried desperately to eke out a decent rhythm up South Head and Mount Famine, keeping my place intact.
On the descent into Dimpus Clough I let go, and passed one of the guys on the gnarly turks heads, and chased MarkO for the rest of the way down, eventually catching him at the bottom as we circled past Geoff on the checkpoint.
He led for a short while, and then I managed to overtake, and realised why it was easier to follow... bit of a headwind. Across and over the stream and onto the climb proper.
Lots of breathing going on behind me, and not many in front. I managed to tap out a decent pace, and passed someone on the way up, not giving away any places. Ross Litherland was way up ahead, and I was unlikely to catch him.... the key was keeping people behind me.
The top came eventually, and it was straight back into the running. Someone was close behind me, and I managed to keep the pace up enough that he only came past me near the downhill of the first part of Dragons back, where he fumbled a bit going down and I shot past on the rough downhill.
Clear away down the hill and up to the second half of the Dragons back, I was on my own.... it was taking the guys behind quite a while to catch up to me. I certainly wasn't going all out... my legs were feeling tired, and really letting me know they didn't want to go faster. It wasn't until the final descent that there was breathing behind me, the same guy again?
Then a Pennine vest appeared beside me and got half a metre on me on the first part of the descent. Not being particularly happy about that I responded and dropped as quickly as possible down the grassy slope, without being too crazy and hit the gate and the path first.
We were pretty much neck and neck right the way down the Bridleway. Rocks and cobbles and goodness knows what were all over the place, and we did pretty well to not come a cropper. I led through the whole downhill, and managed to keep ever so slightly ahead.
Constant thoughts of just how nice it would be to slow down and chill out were going through my head, so I kind of ignored them and kept it up.
Down to the final turns, and the last 200m, through the playground and I could feel him dropping back a little, over the stream and the final field, I stuck it all on the line and sprinted for the line, just crossing over a few seconds behind Ross who had massively slowed down because of a stitch.
5th overall, in about 48:21 I think.
Pretty happy with that.... I wonder if I'll ever get to the point of hitting sub 45? That'd be quite something.