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
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