I’d been nervous for last year’s cancelled event but this year I was in much better spirits. Conditions were good, bordering on the perfect, and I was feeling fit. I reckoned I was fitter than two years ago when I’d successfully got round the LDMT ahead of the cut-offs so I was reasonably confident as I stood at the Start in Patterdale waiting for the three minute countdown. I wonder where we’d be going?
A taped route led 1200m after the start to map collection and all became clear. For starters we’d be heading straight up St Sunday Crag and make our way to the first checkpoint; a sheepfold at the bottom of Fairfield. Up over the top of St Sunday or do some clever contouring around the side? Hmmm, I decided on the more brutal but easier to navigate over the top route. It was hot and hard but an hour later I was skirting the summit of St Sunday and planning my descent. Conditions were clear and I was lucky to spot the checkpoint from a distance so took a direct line to it. 90 minutes in and I was at checkpoint 1, 7 to go. This was harder than I had expected and although still comfortably within the cutoff I’d hoped to be going faster and feeling more comfortable than I was.
Checkpoint 2 was easy navigation. Hole in the Wall, so back over St Sunday and down to Grisedale Beck, where a fellow runner bid me a cheerful good morning and asked me how I was doing. I was pretty sure I recognised this chap.
“It is you, isn’t it?”, I asked.
“Oh, yes, it’s me.”, Joss replied.
Introductions over, we chatted for a minute, during which time Joss said he was retiring because his knees were giving him trouble. He seemed remarkably upbeat and spoke of seeing his specialist next week to get them fixed. Joss was running with two fantastic sticks that looked hand chiseled and customized – I’ll never look at my Lekis in the same way again. He headed off down the valley back to Patterdale and I headed upwards to the Hole in the Wall.
It was a long hard climb up the wall line during which at some point Andy Blackett from DFR passed me and somehow managed to make me agree to make up a ‘B’ team at the FRA relays, before he pushed on ahead into the distance. Checkpoint Two eventually arrived and I was feeling far more tired than I expected to be, and only half an hour inside the cutoff time. This was beginning to look ominous.
Checkpoint 3 was a fair trek away, somewhere NE of Hart Side. I descended down Red Tarn Beck then crossed over towards Greenside Mine. I was very pleased with my direct route up the beck and across the shoulder of Sheffield Pike to Nick Head, where I picked up a path that contoured all the way round to Brown Hills. My speed was slow but my navigation was fine. I left the path to begin contouring round Brown Hills towards the checkpoint at Coegill Beck. I realised that time was now against me and that if I got to the Checkpoint 3 before being timed-out I’d retire there anyway.
Unfortunately I decided to contour by following my instincts rather than following the compass and it wasn’t too long before I found myself in the wrong beck wondering where the checkpoint had hidden itself. I checked my watch. It was academic. I was out of time. I’d drifted too far east and the checkpoint was out of reach. Five hours and 10 miles into my race, and only two checkpoints visited. Time to admit defeat. I retired. It took me another hour and a half to get back to registration to find Andy Blackett sitting comfortably watching the runners finishing.
“Retired?”, he asked, without preamble.
“Yeah, me too”.
For those who don’t know him, Andy Blackett is no slouch, so I did feel slightly better to hear this news. He too had contoured round Brown Hills making a similar mistake to me but managed to relocate and push on to Checkpoint 3 where he retired. A look at the (extensive) list of ‘rtd’s on the results shows that most people who retired did it at this point.
It was a tough event and sadly, it was too tough for me. I suspect it was a harder course than two years ago, but that’s neither here nor there. It’s advertised as a challenging event and LDMT are entitled to set the bar high, but I doubt I’ll be fit or confident enough to tackle the Classic again.