Daily Archives: 30th May 2019

Helvellyn and the Dodds Fell Race, Sunday, May 26, 2019

AL/24km/1337m

Nina Mason


On Helvellyn

I had pre-entered this race a couple of months ago (before last weekend’s OCT offer), so this was the second weekend in a row in the Lakes, and another trip up Helvellyn. Not that I’m complaining!

On the drive over I saw most kinds of weather and arriving at Threlkeld Cricket Club (race registration) it was raining quite hard. The hills were shrouded in cloud and it all looked pretty grim. I checked in, got my number, then sat in the car, staring at Clough Head (what was visible) feeling a bit glum and wondering if this was a good idea. 

 


Pre-race view of Clough Head from the car


The route is out and back, with three checkpoints on the way out, then Helvellyn, then the same three on the way back. I’d recced the route once – near Helvellyn you pretty much follow the tourist path over Raise, White Side, and up to the summit, but across the Dodds I was a little worried about navigation in the cloud. Even the race map tells us that ‘navigation can be a problem…the Dodds have monstrous ‘cock up’ potential’. Yikes.

I got my bag ready (debating whether to set off wearing my jacket – in the end a mistake) and headed for the mandatory kit check and the start. The rain had eased, but it was still a bit damp, and my lack of warm-up (sssshh, don’t tell Coach) left me feeling a little cool and miserable on the start line. I was relieved to see Dawn from DFR, a friendly face!

Then off, up the road for about a kilometre, across boggy ground, and up Clough Head. The jacket had to come off pretty quickly as I started to heat up. Despite reading previous race reports recommending getting in the right group, I wasn’t, and picked my way past people up the rough grass (leaving others with the ‘steps’). Climbing up here I wasn’t feeling into it at all, not sure how this was going to go, as we all entered the clouds.

Clough Head was wild – blowing a hoolie, dense clag. I tried to keep the small line of runners in front of me in sight, the wind made it so disorientating. But then as we dropped down before Great Dodd it cleared, and I could see for miles. It was such a relief and I started to feel better, even uttering a couple of ‘wows’ at the view.

The rest of the race was a mix of clag, then clearing to give amazing views. The wind however was relentless, nearly blowing me off my feet a few times. I had cheered up immensely by Great Dodd and started to really enjoy things after that. The front runners started to pass me (heading back) as I got to Raise, and most of them got a ‘well done’, except where the wind just whipped the words out of my mouth! Helvellyn looked spectacular emerging out of the cloud, though it was blowing over again as I got up there. The marshals got a big ‘thank you’ and then I was laughing as I rounded the trig point with another runner, and the wind was suddenly intense in our faces. Although my hands were numb, the rest of me felt warm enough. I decided I didn’t want to slow down to put on more clothes, thinking I could only get warmer as I started to descend again.

My new OCT ‘neck tube’ earned its keep, most of the time up over my nose to keep to wind off my face and ears (I hate it blowing in my ears). I felt much stronger on the way back, passing people and working hard on both the downhills and the pull ups.

I almost missed the CP on Great Dodd on the return – a group contoured the summit and I started to follow as they disappeared in the cloud, then I realised I had hit a path which seemed familiar, so I stopped, trying to see through the clag. I doubled back up the hill and was literally only 50 yards away from the cairn but didn’t see it until almost on top of it.

The rain started hard as I hit Clough Head (still claggy, and very, very windy), and then that horrible descent. My language was foul as I slithered, tripped, fell down the steep slope, the driving rain coming down sideways, blowing streams of water off my nose and chin, unable to see, hear, or think.

I worked hard across the bog, and (a little surprisingly) caught Karen from NFR as we hit the road. We decided to run in together (not normally my thing, but at the time there felt good reasons) and so crossed the finish line together. Good to see Dawn at the finish – she’d had another good run today, finishing second lady.

This is a great race – good organisation, a fair bit of climbing, but some good runnable bits, and I know the weather isn’t always as bad! Having said that, despite a bit of a gloomy start I really enjoyed the day – it was wild, wet and windy, and I absolutely loved being out in (at times) fairly appalling conditions. It just goes to show how good running can be for body and mind, whatever you enjoy!

Well done to the organisers and the marshals at the CPs, out in it for hours – thank you!

PositionNo.NameGenderAge CatClubTime
129Brennan TownshendMOpenKeswick AC2:07:58
2645Sophie NoonFOpenCumberland Fell Runners2:51:36
7319Nina MasonFV40Elvet Striders3:16:46

Roseberry Romp, Newton-under-Roseberry, Tuesday, May 21, 2019

BS/5 miles/320m

Nick Latham


Courtesy of Eric Green

What an absolutely brilliant race!  I loved it.

I often struggle to get to mid-week events but when this one popped up I realised I could make it and double my fell race experience in the process. I got there early, just after registration opened at 6pm. The car park was already pretty full but I managed to nab one of the last available spaces. I was shortly followed by Jan, Robin, Eric and Sarah who made up our full Striders contingent.

I have a mental image of fell races to be small affairs compared to road races with perhaps several 10s of people rather than the 100s or 1000s. It was obvious from the registration queue that this was going to be much more popular than I thought! In the end there were exactly 300 finishers, quite a turnout.

I was also intrigued by the composition of the field. My only previous fell race was Cronkley, where, in a field of around 30, I was firmly part of the tail and I can normally expect to be around the middle of the field in most other races. Without meaning to be judgemental, I could see this field was a much broader range of runners than Cronkley, from the hardened fell aficionados through to “regular” club runners (people who might run a mix of road, XC and trail on a normal day) to some who seemed quite inexperienced. The results seem to bear out that assessment with times ranging from 35 to 90 minutes. My point is that you don’t have to be put off thinking it’s just for faster runners, anyone can give this sort of event a go.

I wasn’t planning to race hard, I was treating it as a tempo-effort session and I lined up where I thought was about half way back in the field. With a short announcement about there being lots of runners, so fast finishers weren’t to eat all the cake, we were given a short “3, 2, 1, go” and we were off…

Steady up stony & dusty Roseberry Lane, there’ll be a bottleneck at the gate. Into the woods and a right turn along the surfaced track. Not many passing places, some undulations. Into a rhythm.


Courtesy of Eric Green

Left at the quarry and start climbing – a short steeper section to start with, then more gradual along the outside of the quarry. Single file most of the way. Sharp kick up to a kissing gate – “How British are we?” as we form an orderly queue – then make a quick pass up a short section to a stile (more recovery, I mean queueing). Brief flatter section before a left turn (marshal point) up a short and brutal final climb to the head of the quarry.

Flat along the cliff edge (fenced in), chance to get the legs moving again. Welcome downhill, pick up a few places barrelling past more tentative descents. Apologise to Darlington Harrier who I nearly wipe out in the process.

Onto the top woodland path, climb steadily to the gate onto the common. Past the shooting hut and start the rough path up the south side of the topping. Single-file procession again, hands on knees, no real swapping of places at this point. Alister Robson pops into view just behind me, I’m too out of breath to do more than wave.

Reach the rocks at the top, swing around the trig point and the fun (descent) starts. Why are these two picking their way tentatively over flat rock? Blast past.

Onto the “tourist path” – uneven stones, careful with foot placement – concentrate.

Reach the bottom, runners off to my left – how did they get there? Ignore them, direct route is straight ahead, stick to it.

Across the saddle at a decent pace, bear left to join the path up Little Roseberry. Two in sight ahead of me, can I close them down?  Swaledale vest pulls away, I’m right behind the other by the top of the climb and the next marshal point.

Chuckle at the “left turn” arrow in tape across the bilberries, into a narrow channel. Round the bend, what a view!  Stunning! No time for that, rough track, concentrate on foot placement. Path widens, chance to over-take, grab it.

Sweep down to the edge of the moor and another marshal point, gradually closing on the Swaledale vest. Easier gradient here, gradually reel him in and sit in behind for the last narrow section of path off the moor. Footsteps behind, someone’s closing in. Closed gate ahead so I’ll be with Swaledale and The Feet going into the last section.

Back onto Roseberry Lane again, 400m to the finish. 

Kick hard out of the corner – drop The Feet, close down Swaledale.

Reach the bend in the lane, I’m past him. Don’t look back.

Man ahead – I’m closing fast, I can get him…I’m past. 

Another – catch and pass. 

Woman from Stockton Striders, I might even get to her…

Dig in, gain one last place before the line.

Stop Garmin.  Gasp for air.

Eric and Robin had already finished (no surprise, really), so I was either third counter for the men’s team or last Striders bloke home, whichever way you want to look at it. Jan came in a little while later, clearly in some distress with an injury and Sarah wasn’t far behind to complete our turnout for the evening.

As you might be able to tell, I’d blown all intent to hold back out of the water. It all started on the first climb between the gate and the stile when I found I was able to move past people but wasn’t flat out. I think that flicked the little “race” switch in my head and from then on, I was on the lookout for gaining places. I think the fact that I’d held back at the start helped and that I wasn’t concerned about walking the steeper climbs – steadier pacing in the first half left me able to capitalise on the downhill where I’m generally better.

I finished 143rd in 52:44. The Swaledale vest turned out to be M45 too, so I gained a bonus age-group place on the closing stretch! I later discovered I was nearly 3 minutes up on Katie Abel of Stockton Striders, who I’d just pipped at Vale of York half marathon last year. I also came in a minute and a half up on Alister, despite him catching me on the main climb.

The description said 5.1 miles and 320m climb. I clocked 4.65 miles and 362m climb, Robin and Eric’s watches gave them similar distances and other Strava results seem to confirm the climb. Looking back at my route, there was a split in the tourist path before the zig-zags started, which was probably an easier gradient and less rough underfoot, so I might have missed a small advantage there, but not a catastrophic nav error.

This would be a brilliant introduction for anyone interested in giving fell running a try. It would be quite hard to get lost, especially if you’ve walked or run in the area before; it was well marked and marshalled. The National Trust web page even carries the route and a description, so anyone could try the course throughout the year if they didn’t want to wait for the next race.

If you’re thinking about dipping your toe in the waters of fell running, there are much worse races to try it. Just make sure you get there as early as you can for a parking space!

 

 

 

 

PositionRace NoTimeNameClubCategory
140935:44Tim GrimwoodSwaledaleMSEN
599143:30Kirsty StruthersNYMACWSEN
7639345:13Robin ParsonsElvet StridersM40
10246848:26Eric GreenElvet StridersM50
14338952:44Nick LathamElvet StridersM45
19739257:33Jan YoungElvet StridersW65
238891:03:42Sarah FawcettElvet StridersW55