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Hodder Valley Show 2016

September 16, 2016

I swap the bottle of wine Steve has put in my bike bag for a small jar of piccalilli as the ride over Waddy Fell looms in my mind. I have an old rugby mucker who has a stall at these shows and his business is making chutney; I can see about twelve varieties of them for tasting. I kind of make it my business to seek him out and purchase one from him. He tells me that he works seven days a week at this with his family and goes to shows as far as Cartmel; any further than that just isn’t viable economically. It’s thirty pounds for his pitch here and he needs to sell thirty jars to make it worthwhile. He happily takes my bottle of wine; keep plugging away Derek.

Steve says to me before the start that there are a mighty 85 runners today and there aren’t enough bottles of beer to go round so he’s had to buy 30 lots of Lancashire cheese from the delighted stall holder next door; its Mrs Kirkham’s as well – scrumdiddly.

The seemingly pricey £10 entry isn’t so bad when you factor in that it includes the parking, the show, the bottle of beer/cheese and of course the race itself. In fact, its a bargain I’ve convinced myself. The bonhomie, the meeting of friends, the short distance to travel are also included in that price. As is the entertainment provided by the great man Al Heaton. Sorry Al and please forgive me for this, but that tumble you took five metres from the line is the stuff of legend and ought never to be forgotten. The mighty surge to pip your adversary in front of a large-ish crowd; that earning of that ephemeral stripe; that bragging right – all usurped by one glorious, headlong tumble down the bank; it was worth the price of entry on its own. And, I kid you not, five Red Arrows fly past in formation.

The course is a brilliant one Steve, and I mean that. Some just have that extra je ne c’est quoi, everyone remarks on it – not necessarily in french though. Hereabouts buried in the bogs are a few planes from the war so a Slaidburn man tells me. And he recalls an American pilot being taken down to the cells; what had he done I ask him; nay, that’s where they laid him out after the wreckage he says.

The race is one by a street by a Bolton lad – who’s looking for a fell running club to join but Horwich has caught his eye so he tells me. He’s a road runner but quite fancies the fells now that he has sniffed success. He gets up at 5.30am most days to get his training in; he points to his young wife and two young kids so he doesn’t have to tell me about having to find time to train. I can’t help but admire that; talent and hard work, but mostly hard work.

Lots of Bowlanders about, either running or marshalling. It is flagged to perfection and every one of the marshals offers encouragement and a smile; I love this club.

I talk with Richard D after and about a book I’ve read called A Shepherd’s Life by James Rebanks. It is an eye opener for me and causes me to look on these agricultural shows differently now. The cheery, relaxed nature of most; the pig racing, the sheep-shearing contests, fell racing et al belie the quite serious purpose of farmers and their livelihoods and making ends meet and their reputations as stockmen; these are all bubbling away at its heart. It lends a gravitas to the day that I look forward to. So take a look at the faces of those that are showing, there’s serious business afoot here.

Richard points me in the direction of a book he recommends ‘ I bought a Mountain’. He didn’t give anything away when he says the author left the love of his life.

Well done Bowland; organised superbly and with a great spirit as I expected it to be; but your effort is much appreciated all the same. ’twas was a grand day out.

Grisedale Horseshoe 2016

September 13, 2016

I gave up writing down the numbers my fingers were that numb and just counted the runners through says Rob Green the marshal on St Sundays Crags – perishing it was says he. He isn’t kidding either; the clag is right down as well and there are three people trailing me following my lead. We pick up one of them coming at us head on such is his disorientation – he’s an older chap too. 93 have set off and Rob counts 93 through; in these conditions aren’t we all brilliant.

Feeling responsible for my entourage I take the safer walker’s path and then down into the gully eschewing the much quicker lower line in the conditions as I’m not sure that I can find it. Everyone thanks me as we descend but I’m happy to do so as I’ve stolen others’ knowledge many times myself.

Achille Ratti organise this race and it competes with the classic Ben Nevis race on the same day. There’ll be a few Bowlanders up there slogging their way up. The Ben sells out within 48 hours such is its status -I vow to have a go some time in the next few years. But this race is just as gruelling you know; two and a half hours, if you’re me, of typical Lakes terrain. But not if you are Chris Arthur who romps home first. Chris, I’ve never done it before and don’t know my Way, Arthur. Sheesh. Is that a first for Bowland then – anyone. Four minutes he won by. You’re making this here fell running malarkey look a bit too easy Chris.

John Rainford of Preston Harriers jogs up onto my shoulder near the finish, he’s easily quicker than me, but he lets me have it seeing as he’d still be running round the Crags if he hadn’t come across me. He’s just making the point that he could beat me if he chose to; but I already knew that John.

One of the Achille Ratti ladies in the village hall nudges my hand over to the lemon drizzle plate as I make for the fruit slice; she nods and winks at me so I take the hint. My good woman, lemon drizzle may just be added to the duopoly of the fruit slice or the scone; it is that good.

As we look at the results Paul Cornthwaite of Borrowdale says that the fish pie he ate last night is still sitting on his stomach and was through the whole race; I’m not feeling very well he says. Righto Paul; yes – I can see you were 5th overall; WADA need a representative up here methinks. Wouldn’t mind some of that fish pie myself; bet it was turbo-t.

Mark I finishes 12th I think and Leigh is ten minutes quicker than me but this is his type of race and his type of weather.

The RO gives a heavy sell to join the Achille Ratti Climbing Club; it now has two huts in the Lakes and one in Wales and a membership of 800. It even takes non-catholics now; our missionary work has to be very subtle nowadays – a popular and successful strategy is to leave you dangling on the end of a rope until you convert.

Anyway, a great race and thanks and well done to Achille Ratti for putting it on; another great job.

Chipping Show Fell Race 2016

September 12, 2016

From the show field and milling around before the start of the race, in the near distance I can see a monkey puzzle tree who’s owners have shaped its branches in the style of Sideshow Bob. Its 40′ height is still quite difficult to make out against the green backdrop. I try and point it out to Rowena but she can’t see it; but there it is, this South American conifer nestling somewhere in Chipping with a psychopathic killer’s haircut.

Preston Harriers organise this race and some older couples are in charge; and enjoying themselves whilst they’re at it. Politeness and humour mask a nice kind of bossiness. And a very relaxed Colin W comperes the race while we assemble in the show ring.

There’s not much to relate, I kind of only wanted to tell you about the monkey puzzle; but to say that kind of diminishes Mark I’s second placing; first is only a matter of time Mark – was it only four years ago that you were in the bottom 20 percent.

Sam finishes just ahead of an in-form Nichola Jackson of Preston Harriers. Crispin and I have a bit of a dingdong all the way; half a mile from the finish I can’t see a course flag and shout over to Cris is this the way. Not sure but I think so – he says with conviction and we veer right through a deeply boggy stream and emerge spattered in cow muck and startle the herd of said muck creators who bolt in all directions. Hmmm, nav error and reverse out sheepishly looking at the three or four others who are in follow mode. Cris and I lose four or five places with the blunder. How could you, a Bowlander, go wrong on this home turf race says the organiser; easy says I. I seem to recall a certain Steve Cox asking me the same question a few years back.

Ro, Ian C and Alan H are also here competing as is the one and only – great to see you – Keith Denver recovering from his heart surgery ; its amazing the advice that doctor’s give you nowadays; almost all the received opinions I had growing up are being de-bunked – like rub some butter on a burn; handsome is as handsome does; cleanliness is next to godliness; false sayings attract intelligent people heh heh.

The Old Dog’s still hungry…x3 Peaks Cx 2015

August 30, 2016
by

Whernside_2015-1

It doesn’t get much better than this!

I’m not sure what they call it after a trilogy (probably one too many!) And it’s taken nearly a whole year to get round to writing it and the next one is nearly upon us. This is the 4th report in the “Old Dog” saga at the X3 Peaks Cx and a bit like the Great British Bake Off, the ingredients are all pretty much the same, it’s how you approach it that makes all the difference and how of course you cope when the pressures on! Recipe as follows:

Training

It’d been a funny old year, winter road training had gone well through to January and the Tenerife trip was great up until I tweaked my quad and then spent all of Feb and March doing no riding, a lot of upper body gym work and some swimming. It was then a very slow build up to get the legs going again and fortunately out to Europe for x6 weeks to do 40 or so Grand Tour classic climbs which left me back in the UK at the beginning of August in pretty good hill climbing form and relatively light. I did one set of hill reps on Parlick as soon as I got back and it took me nearly a week to recover (the body doesn’t like anything weight bearing anymore unfortunately). So I opted to stick with the hill climbing on the bike and continued with my ticking of the top 200 hill climbs in the UK (now at 70 and counting) which seemed to go some way to filling the gap left by the lack of running reps.

Kit

A few changes this year, a 30 on the back to give me a couple more teeth to grind up Penyghent. No repair kit on the bike this year, just the mobile spare wheels service provided by Kev at the critical points and the spare bike at Cold Cotes and Ribblehead in case of over jealous descending / crap bike handling, nose dive with subsequent bike and/or body damage.

The Knowledge  

No recce this year, although I’ll probably go back at some point for a look at the line from the top of Ingleborough to the path across the moor as this had me off a couple of times and contributed to a slower descent by over a minute on last years’ time. The upper Whernside alternatives weren’t required as the long flagstone section was dry as opposed to wet, greasy and potentially lethal…the bloke I passed with the smashed face and a lot of blood may disagree!

Support Crew

When the margin for error is so small it’s all about the marginal gains that can be accrued to offset the unforeseen “things” that occur on the x3 Peaks, there is no better word for them as some cannot be categorised! Deb was at Cold Cotes and Ribblehead with the spare bike, bottles and gels as required. Kev was covering the Hill Inn, Whernside descent and Hull Pot on Penyghent for bottles, gels and spare wheels in all the likely bike damaging places.

Race Day

Deb and I went up in the van late afternoon Saturday and snook into the last camper van spot opposite the start line…perfect. Went to the pub and drank orange juice while watching England’s rugby team throw away the game against Wales, if there was a lesson to be learnt it’s don’t put yourself in a wining position and fail to push hard to finish the job….noted! I got a pretty good night’s sleep for a pre-race night and hooked up with Stevie Cox the next morning for a bit of pre-race prep and banter.

Steve and I warmed up beyond the start line and I bumped into Rob Hope as usual just before the start and we exchanged the usual pre-race good lucks.

Race Plan

There was a target time of course – 4 hours for a 1st Class time and this is a big race and required “building” rather than cobbling together so I had the previous years splits in my mind and a slightly more forgiving approach to the first road section which was to be hard with main bunch but not “blowing out my arse” after 10mins…ah well

The Start 

I backed into front row of the grid as usual and the Elites were pulled forward. Then the countdown is always quite a tension builder as the PA booms out 10, 9, 8…3, 2, 1 GO! Then its click click click like a battalion of drummers as cleats engage pedals and we’re off.

 

Start_2015_1

Pole position in the “best of the rest “

The lead car was back to delivering something akin to normal road race service in that it wasn’t really neutralising the race but pulling it along, I think they got it about right this year. I didn’t fight quite as hard to keep my place around 70-80 from the front and allowed a steady slippage as I followed wheels until we hit the exit from the road.

I have a slight altercation as some “biffer” decides to take the line over the grassy hump by the wall in the first field and stops me dead as he cuts across my line. He predictably grinds to a halt but I’m now off having to remount in a bad spot so ship 10 places, annoying or what!

I kept my place up to Simons Fell which although it was grim wasn’t too bad…I’m saying that now, I felt like a sick dog! However, how you cope with recovering after the first 30-40mins is a big part of how the rest of the race will go and I kept it steady, riding as much as possible and being efficient in my ride or dismount decisions.

SimonsFell_2015-1

Head down and focused on Simons Fell

Ingleborough_2015-1

A gentle jog and laughing all the way!

I Summit Ingleborough in 1:00:12…2.30mins off my PB…OK but certainly no cigar. I picked my lines off the summit and despite a couple of minor crashes on the early technical sections (Note to self: must get my lines sorted!) I motored well across the moor, no crashes and passing a few people on this section. I had a pretty good second half descent and motored through the check-point, with a 17:42 down on last years descent time by 1:15 and 3 minutes adrift of my PB split going through in 1:17:54. But I’m not panicking…just yet.

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Checkpoint sighted!

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I speed off down to Ingleton eating and drinking when I’m not head down and then it’s a steady climb up to the caves where I start getting twinges of cramp in my calves, nothing new here and I purposefully work to get on a small bunch so I can sit anonymously on the back for a few miles. As we approach the climb up toward the hill Adrain “Sticky” Dalgleish appears in the passenger seat of a team van so I casually hang on the wing mirror like its mine and have a quick chat…unfortunately it was short lived and I had to dive off toward Whernside to pick up supplies from Kev. Refuelled by Kev at the flying pit stop I stuff some more gel down my neck and ease my way up toward the beast that is the Whernside steps climb.

I pass Ian “The Reverend” Roberts on the way who offers his usual goodies and momentarily distracted by jelly babies I trip and get a real spasm of cramp in my calf that stops me in my tracks for a few moments until I can stretch it out and get going again. Whernside is a bit of a Nemesis for me, something always seems to happen, usually all bad! I climb well enough but struggle to get any rhythm up on the ridge, on/off, on/off, I need to find my mojo soon or this is going to be a long race.

I summit Whernside in 2:14: 32 with a 56:38 for that section, less than a minute down on my PB…and then suddenly there it is, the mojo is back!! I go from head down staring at the rocks and gravel to flying down the mountain with the wind in my hair (artistic license) and life is good again. A lot of recce work has gone into this descent over the years and I make a satisfactory job of the upper ridge, the steps, although nerve racking I do all on the bike and I negotiate the lines next to the main path all the way to the steep drop off back onto the main track. I hurtle onto the track like a rat out of a drain pipe and begin to motor back toward Ribblehead in a new PB of 23:32 and just two minutes off my best split at 2:38:04…the games is on

Kev and Deb provide more support and a re-fuel and I soon ride on to a group that I decide to tag along with for a while and then disaster strikes! There’s a policewoman in the road stopping traffic as there’s been a motorcycle accident and the cars can’t get through. It transpires that the accident has gone but for a bike propped up at the side of the road and we explain “nicely” that we’re in a bike race and can we just ease past. Within a minute we’ve gained sufficient critical mass that she relents and waves us on. There’s a lot of dark murmuring in the bunch about the state of policing in this day and age and how young they all are of course.

We hit a few digs and I ease up toward the front each time me legs are sore but clearly better than those around me. There’s about 12 riders now so I’m very conscious of getting up the lane when we leave the road at Houghton with a clear run at the lower technical section followed by the long drag up the track toward Hull Pot and eventually the steep climb up to Penyghent.

I’m sat 4th wheel as we go through Houghton, over the bridge and up toward the turn and with 100m to go I pull out and raise the speed a few notches. There’s a bit of a moan from the bloke who’s been on the front for the last few minutes but to be honest, it’s a bike race and I’m now happy to do my turn up to Penyghent…if they can sit on my wheel that is. I negotiate the lower slopes and start to get into my groove, I’ve got a 30 on the back this year for this very climb and I get just a bit more spin and a little less grind. I soon distance anyone trying to stay on my wheel and start to close on new quarry, the weeks in the Alps are now paying off and I keep a good pace all the way to the steeper slopes where I eventually put in one final effort before climbing off for the long and arduous plod up to the summit.

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A purposeful stomp…

The very strong try to ride a bit once you get onto the ridge path but I find a purposeful stomp is about as good as it gets for me, jumping on/off just isn’t possible anymore with knackered joints and that scream enduing pain that shoots up the inside of your leg when you get it wrong just isn’t worth contemplating at this stage in the race.

Penyghent_2015-2

Always have a bike handy to lean on when you’re tired…

I summit Penyghent in a new PB split of 58:45 and 3:36:49 just one minute off my best time so with a swift descent a sub 4 hour is still on…

I’m steady but efficient on the upper grassy slopes and stay on the bike for all but one man eating peat hag. I rattle down the path which I’ve previously run and do my best to bunny hop and weave my way down the steep upper slopes of the path without gaining so much speed that it makes my eyes water. I feel I’m on my game when someone hurtles past me on the long run down to Houghton. I do my best to latch on and I’m getting airborne on the rollers, this is all getting a bit hairy but I finally hurtle out onto the road and try to pick it up…cramp…bugger!

I get as low as I can and try to ease up the pace hands dangling off the front of the bars in TT mode, I catch a few riders all of whom seem to be in survival mode and I shout a bit of encouragement to get them to work. I know I’m close to a sub 4 hours but how close, very I suspect, so I bite the bullet and pull the peddling wounded along, least those that can muster the effort to hang on the wheel. The pains coming from places that haven’t hurt before but it’s time to push on and I get out of the saddle for a final sprint over the bridge and negotiate the final gravel strewn corner, throw my wrist at the marshal holding the dibber and wait….I struggle off the bike and the dibber is surgically removed from my swollen wrist, the printer spits out my time…3:59:05, I’m genuinely stunned!

I stagger round to see “the crew” and I have a pretty uncomfortable few minutes while my legs spasm with cramp, pretty much top to bottom. It was a PB at 22:16 down from the summit to the finish giving an overall position of 148th, 18 places better than last year and 20th overall in the old dog competition, which just goes to show how much life there is in old dogs generally!

So in summary:

  • Was I pleased…yes, it never disappoints!
  • Did the plan work…yes, even better than I expected in the end!
  • Marginal Gains…look no further than “The Crew” – my thanks as always!
  • Will I be back…sadly not this year but the appetite hasn’t gone just yet…

 

 

 

Borrowdale Fell Race 2016

August 7, 2016

It’s the morning after and I hobble to the scales, anorak that I am. My hip is giving me a bit of gyp after yesterday’s ropey performance. Serves me right anyway, not giving the course any proper respect. Much too blasé and not as fit as I think I am, I claim my first DNF. Debatable of course but I always think of this race as the greatest of the classics on the calendar; it’s a beguiling course right in the heartland of the countryside that gave birth to the sport. Five minutes later I get back on the scales to see I’ve lost another kilo; yep, the scales are as reliable as my form is; either these scales go or I go as Oscar Wilde didn’t say on his deathbed.

Anyway, it’s the morning of the race and it’s misty; nothing like the glowing forecast on the news. Mike J, the bookies favourite for gold in pessimism at Rio, is excelling himself this morning; yeh yeh Mike we hear you but we’re not listening. Chris A is quiet as usual but last week he did a Sky Race in Andorra. Not sure that it’s the best of preparations for Borrowdale Chris but such is his talent anything is on the cards. And the unassuming Rowena will never talk of her own achievements but will almost certainly win something today.

So how did my race go; well I start much too quickly, my hip starts giving me gyp and mild hypothermia gets a grip going up Gable and I DNF at Honister; #wasted. Cold, injured and a long way from home does tend to make one question the enjoyment one derives from this sport. I alert the marshals at the checkpoint and eschewing the long limp back to Rosthwaite I prostrate myself in front of the next car on the road and coerce the car with two adults in the front and two kids in the back to stop and put me in the boot with their pooch and drive me further than they want to go back to the start. Humble apologies for my behaviour you guys and to your lovely sympathetic-eyed poodle who gladly shares her blanket with me and settles her head on my shoulder and I’m sure I hear her say – there there it’ll be okay but you’re looking dog-rough old boy.

So what do I learn from it all; well when I’m looking at my heart rate and its running at 160+ and its only the beginning of a long race; slow down you feckin’ eejit Declan.

And Mark I, well he has a superb run and looks as fresh as a daisy at the finish. Okay Mike, not as good as you’d like but sub-4 hours is still good going; just ahead of Sam who is just ahead of the marvellous Leigh Warby. This race is made for Leigh; tough and technical and he gets his tactics spot on. Chris finds this a race too soon after Andorra and in his short involvement in the sport has never felt so rough in a race. Rowena, it seems like we take your performances for granted; well done and she picks up the 2nd v50 prize off of Billy Bland.

Scoffer and co. have put on another great show. I know he comes across as a bit lairy at times but it’s a bluff that hides a good heart and the true ideals of this less than glamorous sport. We chat about the race and our surroundings while stuck in a traffic jam on the way home; £10 for the privilege, cheese or jam sandwiches and all the tea you can drink and of course the setting; Copacabana or Cumbria – you choose.

Two other things of note happen today:

Mike gets a text from Nikki Harris in Rio who is part of the British road cycling team, she’s racing on Sunday. How good is that. He spends an age thinking of a reply. Mike participated in her training when she was in her early teens and was obviously important in her development in that regard. Fantastic and so left field for us all in the car.

Secondly, I’m surprised to hear some cheers of support just after Styhead. I look up and pass Cookie and then Graham and then Saira and I come alongside an older chap who is doggedly making his way up to Great Gable and not part of our race. Heyyup Deckers says Ian Roberts and I twig at last; he’s one of the great scions of our club doing his Joss Naylor and the others are part of his support team. Bloody hell Ian – keep it going I say. I wish him all the best in this huge challenge for him.

A catch up on some races and some characters

August 7, 2016

Well it’s been a while since my last report and I’ve raced a bit since then; so to catch up on some of the highlights:-
– Howtown and Jim Turner; how tough is this character. I did my Ramsay last week he tells me going up the first. Jeez my efforts are a bit pathetic by comparison. Why – how can you – what – follow that with an AL the week after. It just seems over-indulgent. And a bit bonkers; and a bit inspiring. It’s not as if Jim is taking it easy right now either and I shadow him mercilessly to the last gratuitous hill where his big engine fades a little. Mucho respecto Jim, what a ballsy effort. Nuts and guts, heh heh.
Rowena picks up the ladies v40 prize as usual.
Mark I is also a convert to to a good fruit slice – the biggest wedge you can imagine is waiting for us at the finish; I know what you mean now he says. Nina is there as well and she asks why don’t I just have a scone and a fruit slice as well. I just think the thrill of choosing is denied me if I go down that road – it’s a weak argument isn’t it.
It’s a hot and humid day so I have a dip in Ullswater to cool off; its an unexpected pleasure.

– Tebay race and Quentin and Mike and Chris and Mark are there; most of the elite of Bowland in fact. Mike’s scabbed limbs are healing nicely; a bit of a fall somewhere or other has kept him out for a few weeks, fortunately for him his head took the brunt of it he says.

– To Skiddaw with Chris Arthur. Getting out of my car he quickly indulges his vaping habit; he’s been off the cigarettes a year now. He gets himself a top ten spot in this English uphill selection race at the same time. And he has another vape just before getting back in the car.
Leigh Warby also manages to charge past me half way down in spite of three classicos in as many weeks. He gives me some useful advice about my ascending too; working hard at running up as far as I can it seems that when I break into a walk I actually pull away from him; that’s good info which I’ll have to take note of.

– Kentmere and that man Chris A again. He only goes and gets beaten by a 40 year old. Never mind that that 40 year old is Morgan Donnelly who wins the race from Chris by two seconds. My my – it seems Bowland have a real contender. I spot him later crouching behind a car vaping for all he’s worth.
I think Rowena picks up the v40 prize for this one as well.

– Borrowdale recce with loads of us; about ten. Leigh and Rich are showing us the route and it doesn’t take long for the group to split into two given the wide range of fitness and abilities. Leigh’s assuming we have a modicum of route knowledge; fact is it’s less than a modicum. If visibility is poor on the day it’s going to be very interesting. We’re out for over five hours. The lesser spotted Chris Reade is off on his new bike to do some of the Fred Whitton. Ian R is also out – good luck with the Joss Naylor, Ian; it’s a real challenge for you.

– Farlton Knott – which is today and I meet up with a few club newbies. Compadres Doug and Tom who are both teachers and know Rich; and a caver who’s spent the last ten years in northern Spain. I mean a proper caver; that’s what he does – a big welcome to you all. Given that caving is his occupation I totally get that you don’t get much sun on your skin but Dominic is the palest thing to emerge from the Iberian peninsula since those luminescent creatures came up from the depths all those millennia ago. His body is going to go into vitamin E overload in the hot sun of northern England.
Now caving is something that I’ve always wanted to have a stab at which I tell Dominic and he says he’ll organise something in September for any of us interested in it; I’m definitely up for it Dominic. And thanks.
In the meantime he’s putting the army through its paces; it’s all in the quads – or is it the glutes; and if you’re skinny you’ll fall down through the cracks. I snack on a big piece of flapjack to start my training.
Simon Bailey wins the race; his wife wins the ladies v40 and his young son wins his age group – naturally. This is a bofra race; I must say there is a good feel to these warm, enthusiastic volunteers who make this whole organisation work; mucho respect to you all.

Paddy’s Pole Fell Race 2016

June 11, 2016

June 2016 140

Grim news, to me anyway; the Tillies pub has shut down Colin says. Good old, bald as a coot, Curly has called it a day. This local man who’d wandered off round the country plying his trade and thence returns to his roots in the village of Chipping, has decided to move on. He was as happy as a sandboy 10 years ago the day he took it over. I think Jules, his wife, never took to the place; she seemed to have a downer on it; the weather, the pace (lack of), just wasn’t her thing. Good old Curly. He loves his fishing, loves a pint or three besides; mingled the two a bit as well. He’s been spotted a few times at dawn mazily making his way back home from an all nighter with his rod. Wonder what he’s doing with my Jura antlers, remember them Chris; I swapped them for a few pints of Guinness and he put them up at the bar – he kept the best pint of anyone. I’ve got a photo somewhere. All gone now, life moves on, bon voyage Curly, whatever you’re up to now.

His brother’s a local poet you know, Michael Neary. I bought a little edition of his which is in the house somewhere. Whilst waiting one time in Clitheroe’s spanking new  Cottage hospital I looked up at the newly painted walls and there, stencilled all the way round, is a quote from one of his poems; fancy that.

To the race itself; a record 101 runners turn up for it. It’s only a 4 miler, only says I, these are as painful as any of them. There are plenty of GandOs too. Without mercy we’re pitched into a steep climb and then you take your choice of routes once on the fell side. I tussle with Rowena and Leigh and Colin; don’t forget that Leigh has done two longs in the past two weekends, it’s now Tuesday, and he has probably the toughest classic yet to come on Saturday, Ennerdale; someone needs to saliva test him. Yep, Leigh gets to the top first, then Rowena, then Colin and then me. This is good stuff; there is no way you can train this hard; always in races, your club mates are your greatest rivals. Graham, meanwhile, is leaving us for dead. All the runners converge on the contour, I doubt there’s any advantage to any of the routes we choose.

Ah, now the long runnable, who’s got that strength and fitness; you guessed it – Leigh. He even falls over 10 yards ahead of me, that’s one for the scrapbook then. At the trig our places are pretty much cemented till Parlick and then there’s the steeply descending finish. A few road runners can’t really cope with it and lose a few places. As does Mark I who loses one position – important, because he loses it to Richard for the 3rd podium spot. Ooh, how Richard must have loved that. Darren F finishes in 5th I think; like Mark, once this would have been brilliant for him; nowadays it’s where he expects to be. Dave ‘not really done a lot’ Nuttall finishes high up as well, running and looking like he has done a lot. Chris B is not far behind him. Also appearing for the Gandos are Mark M – definitely making moves there Mark, Cookie – back from his Joss, Elliott, Martin W and Big Al. Sarah S has swapped her colours back to blue on blue; hi, Sarah.

Preston Harriers and top bloke Michael Mcloughlin organise the race and also throw in a meal at the Sun Inn afterwards. It’s a strange concoction of pasta and stringy cheese and peppers and stuff; much appreciated and tastes okay but getting it from plate to mouth is interesting. The race is also won by a harrier, Andrew Newton; another from the ‘I’ve not done much’ brigade yet can outpace a cheetah. Thanks Michael and the Harriers, appreciate the effort.