Category Archives: Nina Mason

Old Crown Round, Hesket Newmarket, Lake District, Saturday, July 20, 2019

AL/22.4miles/7218feet

Nina Mason

Race start Courtesy of Ian Grimshaw

I had been really excited about this race for a couple of weeks. The race is organised by Northern Fells Running Club, starting and finishing at the Old Crown pub in Hesket Newmarket, with five checkpoints – the summits of some of the fells after which the brewery (based at the pub) has named its beers.

I’d done one recce a few weeks ago, and found some route choices I was happy with, and some that needed improving. A second planned recce was thwarted by my post-Skiddaw Fell Race feet (now healed) but I was still relatively confident with my chosen route. After my disagreement with eating in the Old County Tops, I’d also carefully planned my snacks, and had them stashed where I could grab them easily. I was aiming on getting round (in 6hrs perhaps) and having a good day out.

From the FRA rule book. That’s me told.

I saw Geoff at the start, who rolled his eyes at the fact I’d put my number on my bag (rather than my chest…not enough room with rucksack straps). Anyway, you think that’s bad, wait till you read about my compass.

Kit check and registration complete, 43 runners gathered on the green outside the pub for the pre-race briefing. The sun was shining, and it was fairly warm, though there were a smattering of raindrops as we set off.

There is a mile of road, then from Wood Hall set/flagged routes over fields and then out on to the open fell. A fair amount of running, then a hands on knees climb to CP1 – Carrock Fell. I was quite near the back, but happy to watch a stream of runners ascend ahead of me. Weather still good.

From Carrock the organisers had strongly suggested a route heading towards Round Knott before dropping down to the stream, to avoid the gorse. I’d recced this and knew my way, though the shoulder high bracken near the stream made things fun! Weather and visibility good.

There were three stream crossings to choose from; I had already decided on the first (with a rope) as I wanted to head straight up Bowscale here, rather than nearer Blackhazel Beck (where I had not enjoyed my recce…too tussocky, contoured ground). Again, hands on knees on the steep section, then trudge up, up, up. Check the time – first snack – flapjack.

And then the clouds start to blow over, cutting the visibility to maybe 50yds, and the rain starts. Jacket straight on as I don’t want to get wet and cold. I know I am most of the way up Bowscale, but it’s pathless here so I check the map and do a swift bearing check (compass seemed fine here…. read on). I’d been following a guy in a blue jacket, and now caught him, and we ran together over the pathless ground. We hit the trod coming off Bowscale, and its flatter here, so we both started running towards Blencathra.

Then the steep stony path up to Blencathra. I want to run when I start coming off the top, so I eat again here on the way up – snack two, mini cheese sausage roll. Drink water to help it down. The rain is coming and going, it’s pretty windy, and the clag is thick. I focus on the path in front. Blue jacket is just behind me.

CP2 Blencathra – the marshalls huddled in a tent, and Susan is there too! It’s wonderful to see her, and we have a quick hug and then I’m off, back down to the little pool which for me indicates a left turn down to Cloven Stone. I’ve taken a bearing, and have my compass out to follow….and this is where it goes wrong. My compass needle is swinging around, despite me tapping it, shaking it, and using some rather unladylike harsh language. Every now and then it would settle, and I would confidently start running down the common, and then off it would go again and I’d be reduced to a walk while trying to get it to ‘work’. Blue is still near me in the mist. My compass has become my trusted friend on runs like this – always there, reliable, never lying. I felt lost (emotionally) and let down. What had I done for it to desert me like this, just when I need it? Anyway, I lost track of how long I thought I’d been running downhill, and ended up descending down the valley too early, to the end of Sinen Gill rather than a kilometre or so further north.

So I hit the main track towards Skiddaw House, angry with myself. Blue was with me again, and I explained my error, trying not to sound cross or like I was blaming my tools. Clearly time for snack three – more flapjack.

From Skiddaw House (water available) an easy-to-follow track up Sale How and then Skiddaw. I started to feel pretty weary up here, sick of the mist, and the wind, and my aching legs. I want some proper downhill! It could be hunger. On the final stony climb up to Skiddaw I tucked into snack four – another cheesy sausage roll. It sticks in my throat, but I force it down, knowing how bad I will feel if I don’t eat.

CP3 – Skiddaw. Marshalls sheltering again (it’s pretty wild), pat the trig, and stick with the route I’ve chosen, heading north, and over Bakestall, and follow the fence line to Dash falls. Blue is with me again and I tell him my plan. One alternative (and recommended) route is to follow the BG route over Hare Crag and then up Great Calva, but from my recce I know the path up Little Calva so had already decided to go that way. I tell Blue he’s fine to follow, but not to blame if anything goes wrong, like my descent off Blencathra.

It was pretty good running down here, and then it happened – we dropped out of the cloud, and our whole view ahead was perfectly clear. I love that moment, going from that slightly unpleasant, (but kinda fun), restricted world where visibility is a few yards and sometimes confidence wavers, to suddenly, in a few seconds, having everything visible, the sun shining on the hills ahead, and your route perfectly clear in front. So I shout my wonder and joy to Blue, and filled with energy and confidence I bound down to Dash falls, leaving Blue behind.

From there, a steep and rough trudge up a fence line to Little Calva, then to a pool just north of this, then it’s a good trod up to Knott. My solid food used up (as planned) I have a caffeine gel (it is already past my afternoon coffee time). I’m feeling pretty good.

CP4 – Knott. The going is good from here, runnable grassy trods and a section along the Cumbrian Way. I even manage a slow jog on the uphill’s and pass a couple of guys, stripping my jacket off – it’s warm again. I check behind but I can’t see Blue. On the final climb to High Pike it’s the moment I’ve been waiting for all day – cracking open the tangy, sour, sugar-covered jelly sweets (non-branded today). I eat a handful, smiling at the memory of them saving me on the OCT race, feeling good. I will carry my compass back home, I will apologise to it for swearing, and somehow we will sort out our issues and be besties again.

CP5 – High Pike. Pleased that all of the ‘up’ is behind me, I set off back downhill to Wood Hall, through the intake wall, across a cow-filled field (I shout at a few when they start to look vaguely interested). From Wood Hall I retrace the first mile on the road, but this time it’s all downhill and I race along, and back to the finish on the green at Hesket Newmarket. Brilliant support again from Susan (who had managed to drive to Threlkeld, get up and down Blencathra, and drive back). 

Courtesy of Ian Grimshaw

The winner finished in an eye-watering sub-4hrs. Geoff had another strong performance finishing in 5.27 (despite a fall – I know, mountain goat Geoff! – and a bout of cramp). I just missed the target 6hr mark (a minute and a half over) but happy with that. I had a cracking day out. I’d like to try this one again, perhaps taking some different (probably faster) lines.

This was a tough race that needs experience and navigation skills (even when clear), and certainly benefits from knowing these hills or a thorough recce. The organisers provided some suggested routes, and cake and tea I think at the end (though I didn’t partake, not up for it…. I just needed cool liquids in the immediate aftermath). I would definitely recommend this one.

Anyway….cut to the evening. Sitting at home, clean and warm, with a glass of wine and access to the internet. Searching for ‘compass not working’. And there it is – compass deflection. I think I’ve heard of this. Underwired bra? Errrrrr……no. I wrack my brains. And then I read ‘magnets that fix a water bladder tube to your rucksack’. What an idiot! I’ve only used the bladder a few times, and only when I haven’t had to use my compass. Compass is stored in a pocket, a few inches away from the end of my bladder tube and that pesky magnet. What have I done?? I can only imagine the tutting and shaking of heads of fellow fell-runners. How I have made it this far??

I will, therefore, bow my head in shame, revert to drinking from muddy puddles, and also share my stupidity with you all if it means that someone else benefits…and can find their way when the clag descends. My compass and I are on good terms again, and I’ve promised to look after it well in the future.

 

Click here for results.

 

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Skiddaw Fell Race, Sunday, July 7, 2019

AM/9.6m/3150ft

Nina Mason

Courtesy of Lucy Burnett

This one has been on my list for a few months, and it didn’t disappoint. I stayed over in the Lakes the night before (in my new van J and had a relaxing morning wandering round Keswick and down to the lake. The weather was fabulous, if a little warm for running.

After a proper warm up and mandatory kit check, I bumped into Graeme seconds before the start, and then we were off. The race starts and finishes in Fitz Park, and is as simple as it gets….get up Skiddaw as quick as you can (you must stick to the tourist path), one checkpoint at the summit, then back to the park as fast as possible.

Courtesy of Lucy Burnett

It was run, jog, or trudge on the way up, depending on the incline, and I felt pretty good, catching and passing people most of the way. I’ve started to enjoy these ‘out and backs’ – it’s inspiring and exciting seeing the front runners come hurtling past. The eventual winner had a clear lead as he passed me on the flatter section round Little Man, and a few minutes and runners later Graeme got a massive shout from me – he looked strong on his descent.

Courtesy of Lucy Burnett

After my run across the flat summit to the trig, and a breathless ‘thank you’ to the marshals, I set off on the fantastic descent. I absolutely loved this, trying to hold nothing back even on the steeper sections, running as hard as I could all the way. I got a ‘5th lady well done’ from one of the marshals about half way down, so when I saw the 4th female in front, not going as quick as me on the steep descent, I went for it – running past hard, and then trying to keep it going past the car park near Latrigg and down the final section, determined not to show weakness and look behind.

I was convinced she was right there behind me all the way, as I crossed the A66 over the bridge, and raced toward the park. A sneaky peek back as I entered the park showed me I was well clear (thank goodness, my legs had very little left in them), and then all that was needed was an attempt to sprint finish on the grass.

I really enjoyed this race – well organised, brilliant supportive marshals all the way up (and of course down), and on the day we were thoroughly spoiled by glorious weather and views (though not much time to enjoy them). 

Well done to Graeme who had a great race, and seemed to retain healthy feet…see below. I was very pleased with both my time and position, with the added bonus of getting the 3rd women’s prize, as one of the faster women declined her prize as she works for the sponsors.

The only downside…I trashed my feet. I don’t think different shoes would have helped, it must just have been the heat, terrain and my running style. I’ve taken all the skin off the soles of my heels. I even have photos if anyone is interestedJ. I’ve been hobbling around, cross because I can’t run despite feeling great otherwise, walking on tip-toe until they healed (heeled!) enough to weight-bear. I’ll be strapping them up the next time I do this race (which is a strong possibility!).

 

Click here for results

 

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Alwinton 3 Tops fell race, Saturday, June 15, 2019

BL/14.9m

Nina Mason

A wonderful low-key but challenging fell race (also with a kid’s race, a 10k run, and three ‘Alwinton Challenge’ walks) – all to support North of Tyne Mountain Rescue.

There are no cut-offs in this race, and I entered this with no time to chase or expectations – just to enjoy the run out. I persuaded mum to come along as my #1 cheerleader, and for a walk out on the hills. As always, she performed admirably, including fending off some inquisitive bullocks in one of the fields on the return.

The course was marked pretty much all the way round, so I didn’t even need to navigate, and we all got some sunshine, a dry day, and some glorious views of the Cheviots (though plenty of bog underfoot in some sections 😁).

A good day out, and a race I would recommend.

Thanks to the cheery marshalls at the seven checkpoints, and to the ROs for a great race, and the snacks and drinks afterwards

Map courtesy of the Alwinton 3 tops FB page
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Swaledale Marathon, Saturday, June 8, 2019

Nina Mason

Courtesy of Jan Young

Often a popular Striders event, and this year saw 11 of us brave the elements – heavy rain at times, and breezy in places. I didn’t mind the weather (preferable to sunstroke!) though it made it a little miserable for those spectating – thank you to our supporters.

This was my 19th outing, and I was aiming for sub-4hrs (a personal target that over the last few months has grown out of all sensible proportion in my mind) and anxiety had built up over the previous week. I felt ridiculously stressed at the start, and all the way through to Whaw. I started enjoying myself more on the climb up to Punchard – partly because it’s not easy, and the weather became pretty bad here (so I had other things to think about) and also because I shared this section with Robin, who made me run when my legs didn’t want to, and was good company as we headed into a claggy section over the moor. I was seriously thinking at this point that mum had paid him off to pace me, he was so good at pushing me on, and he didn’t seem tired at all.

Courtesy of Jan Young

As always, I thoroughly enjoyed the descent into Gunnerside. I got there just after my planned time and I thought 4hrs might still be on, though by this point I had remembered that running should (must) be fun – goals are a good thing, but not if they detract from the pure enjoyment of what we do. The pull up to Blades hurt (as always) and the odd cramp here was also pretty unpleasant, but I always like this section; getting to Surrender Bridge and knowing you’re almost home, you’ve just got to keep putting one foot in front of the other. I think I remember the weather improving slightly from Gunnerside. Great to see mum and Tony supporting on the stony track back down to Reeth – my favourite finish!

I didn’t quite get that elusive sub-4 but still very happy knocking a minute off my 2011 PB, and enjoying the company of others throughout, and the bogs and the rain!

Some superb performances by Striders – a ‘comfortable’ win (10 mins clear) for Fiona in the ladies race, both Michael and Stuart in the top 10, and some excellent times and positions for others, particularly given the conditions. Well done to all, whether first-timers or Swaledale ‘veterans’ – I hope to see you all there next year

More Striders images click here

PosEnt NoTimeNameClassClub
140803:01Jamie RutherfordMTotley
729203:28Michael MasonMElvet Striders
1017903:33Stuart ScottMElvet Striders
115403:36Fiona BrannanFElvet Striders
3226703:53Barrie KirtleyMElvet Striders
4129304:01Nina MasonFElvet Striders
471204:04Matthew ArcherMElvet Striders
5735304:10Robin ParsonsMElvet Striders
6119004:15Aaron GourleyMElvet Striders
36115508:00Christine FarnsworthF60Elvet Striders
36248608:00Margaret ThompsonF60Elvet Striders
(Visited 65 times, 1 visits today)

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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Old County Tops Fell Race, Lake District, Saturday, May 18, 2019

Nina Mason

Feeling Ok on Helvellyn (top 1)

I would never have even considered this race – it’s well beyond anything I have previously attempted in terms of distance, climb, and time on feet. But a few weeks prior to the event Elaine got in touch and asked if I would pair up with her. Immensely flattered and yet terrified at the same time, I did a bit of reading, studied the map, and received a couple of encouraging messages suggesting I could do it (thanks – you know who you are) ….and said yes. Elaine said she was happy doing it my pace, she just wanted to complete it and have ‘a good day on the hills’.

The race starts and finishes in Langdale near the New Dungeon Ghyll. You must run in pairs, finish in 12 hours, and there are 8 checkpoints – three of which are the old county ‘tops’ Helvellyn, Scafell Pike, and the Old Man of Coniston. I shared with Elaine a timing plan which would get us to the CPs within the cut offs (one recommended, one mandatory), and see us finish in about 11hr 15.

I was pretty anxious beforehand – I have never recorded a ‘DNF’ and I didn’t want this to be my first. For the first time I was starting a race with no idea whether or not I would get round.

Caption: All competitors get a Harvey course map – I’ve added the big red arrows showing the ‘tops’. Looks easy in 2D!

We had each recce’d a half of the course, and we were fairly confident we would be ok if we needed to navigate (though this might cost us time). On the day we were incredibly lucky with the weather. The forecast rain never appeared, there was no wind, the sun came out a couple of times, but it never got too hot, and the tops were pretty much clear, except for Helvellyn.

I found this event (not unexpectedly!) very tough, and I had a couple of bad patches. The first 15 or so miles (and Helvellyn – top 1 – in the bag) felt ok. But then heading up to Angle Tarn (CP4 and about half way) I was starting to struggle to eat, and psychologically I felt there were a lot of miles in front of me. But, with a bit of internal ‘get a grip Nina, just get to the next checkpoint’ and Elaine telling me quite firmly that my sandwich wouldn’t get eaten if it was still wrapped up, I plodded on.

Heading up to Scafell Pike (top 2) and down the other side over Great Moss and Mosedale I got a second wind, which lasted to the climb up Grey Friar (on our way to Coniston Old Man). My head was ok, my legs were tired but moving (slowly), but my stomach needed a lie down and some kind words. Eating was really difficult here (I know, hard to believe!) so I was nibbling tiny pieces of flapjack and washing it down with water. Elaine, again coming to the rescue, also forced a couple of pieces of mint cake down me. It worked. One of my highlights of the day was getting up to Coniston Old Man (top 3) and knowing we were on the home stretch.

So 30 miles in, and with a good mouthful of a popular brand of tangy, sugar-coated jelly sweets (I have discovered my race food!) I started to feel ‘good’. Even Elaine asked if I was excited as I bounded down the hill (ok, ok, it felt like I was bounding) to the final CP. From there, a ‘victory lap’ of the last 3 or so downhill miles to the finish (catching a couple of pairs on the way!) where I cried like a baby out of sheer relief and thankfulness.

I reckon Elaine had a secret race plan – we obviously travelled my pace, but finished an hour inside my planned time (and I’ll take the extra effort to be finished an hour sooner any day).

Elaine and I starting to believe we have got this – on Coniston Old Man (top 3) – Home stretch!

Elaine was an amazing running partner – for asking me to do this, and for being utterly unselfish – if she ever got frustrated with my pace she never, ever showed it. Most of the race I was following her (though I led a couple of sections and pointed out the odd trod on the bits I’d recce’d) – but she was always checking where I was and checking her pace accordingly. She also offered no ‘sympathy’ (on my instruction, as I wouldn’t have reacted well to this) but just good common sense, pragmatic support all the way round. I don’t think I would have made it round without her, and I feel incredibly thankful that I got the opportunity to do this event with her.

We were both ‘well-chuffed’ for completing this, and also with the additional reward of winning the LV80 category (that’s two lady vet 40s in a pairs event in case you’re thinking we both look really good for our age. Obviously, we do anyway).

Would I do this again? Possibly yes, with more training! It is a fantastic, well-organised event, an excellent (tough!) course, and for £20 per person you get a map, a lot of miles, brilliant support at the CPs, mountains of food at two of them, and food at the finish. Oh, and the famous t-shirt…. only for those that finish the race. A truly limited edition, and Elaine and I are very proud of ours!
Photo Caption: Elaine and I at the finish – Age group prize mugs

The famous t-shirt – only 246 given out this year 🙂
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Coledale Horseshoe, Briathwaite Village, Lake District, Saturday, April 6, 2019

AM 8.5miles, 3002ft

Nina Mason

Coach checking on my performance and offering gentle, maternal encouragement heading up to Barrow

A traditional Lakeland ‘horseshoe’ round Coledale from Braithwaite Lodge, taking in Grisedale Pike, Crag Hill, and Barrow. As the race map describes it: ‘a superb race with a monster climb at the start, a bit of scrambling in the middle, and a lovely grassy descent to finish’.

This was my first race in the Lakes. Despite other fell races I’ve done, I was very nervous. Mum and I had recce’d the route in fairly wintry conditions a couple of months ago, so I knew what to expect in terms of terrain.

Saturday’s forecast looked good, and when I arrived at Braithwaite (early, to see Mum and Tony at the campsite where they were staying) the day promised to be glorious – sun, clear blue skies, no wind.

Continue reading Coledale Horseshoe
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Tour de Helvellyn: A Tale of Two Spectators, Lake District, Saturday, December 15, 2018

Our route: 17 miles, a few thousand ft of ascent, 3 coffee shops, 30 miles bus travel

Nina Mason

It was Brownies that taught me to always carry emergency money. The 2p piece for the telephone box has now been replaced by my credit card, a crumpled fiver, and my phone….and I was glad of the 40-yr old lesson last Saturday.

I’d heard about the Tour a couple of years ago, but it wasn’t until this year that I’d thought it might be achievable for me to complete. I want to enter the race in 2019, giving me time to build up the mileage required, practise navigation, running in the dark etc. Having done an out-and-back recce of the first and last 12 miles of the route, I wanted to recce the ‘loop’ at the end of this ‘stick’, parking at Patterdale and following the course round Helvellyn

And what better day to do it? On the day of the race itself, with Mum for company, at an easy jog/walk pace, experiencing the weather the competitors would get. I’d checked the forecast and we knew it would be a tough day out, so kitted up with everything we needed. We would go in the opposite direction to the runners and hoped to surprise the hardy group of Striders that were competing (Aaron, Elaine, Geoff, Juliet, and Patricia) with chocolate and jelly babies half way up a hill. I’d worked out their approximate split times, aiming to bump into them between their checkpoints 3 and 4, probably on our way up to Sticks Pass.

Well, that was the plan…..

The day started well. Up at 4.30, drive and park up at Patterdale. Then a 7 am start up to Grisedale Tarn. In hindsight, this was the best bit of the day. Despite the freezing temperature and a bit of breeze, we soon got warmed up, jog-walking up the track, head torches on. It was pitch dark when we set off, and the mountains slowly appeared around us as we headed up the hill – a stunning experience that I will never forget.

It was quite breezy at Grisedale Tarn but nothing we couldn’t manage, followed by a very icy (so fairly slow) descent down Raise Beck. The next section – a long forest track by the side of Thirlmere – was straightforward. We stopped briefly for second (maybe third!) breakfast, and I think we were lulled into a false sense of security by the breeze – nothing alarming – being at our backs.

We reached Stanah (the runners’ checkpoint 4) at 11 am. I’d been expecting to see runners coming towards us by now, but there was no-one visible. Maybe they were just on their way…

What happened next justified some of the precautions that we are all told to take when we head up the hills – appropriate clothing, map and compass, spare food…yes, all that of course, it goes without saying. But equally important – an ‘escape route’ and (Brownie) bus fare home.

As we headed up the steep path to Sticks Pass the wind was in our faces. After a couple of hundred metres of ascent, we were struggling. I don’t think I’ve ever experienced wind like it – literally, every step required effort and a pause to rebalance and ‘pin’ ourselves two-footed to the ground. The wind was relentless, and every now and then a stronger gust would mean we had to stand still, leaning into it, preparing to drop to the ground if it knocked us down. Whilst we were just about warm enough in our clothing, the bits of exposed skin around our eyes (the only bit showing between hat, hood, and buff) was freezing, it was so bitterly cold.

So when mum got knocked off her feet the second time by the wind (quite literally blown off her feet) we knew it was time to quit. I’ve only ever bailed out once before – in similar conditions out walking with Leigh when she was young (also in the Lakes). If I had been alone I might have continued, but I always tell Tony I’ll bring Mum home in one piece, and it just suddenly felt too dangerous – so we hunkered down, backs to the wind, and looked at our options. Back down the hill to Stanah first.

We then considered a long jog/walk back to Patterdale via the Old Coach Road and Dockray, but the mileage looked a bit much, particularly as it was starting to rain fairly heavily by now, and the wind would have been in our faces for much of it.

From there then, an easy, though long, finish to the day. Coffee shop then jogged along to Threlkeld, half hour wait; bus to Penrith, over an hour wait and two more coffee shops (pretty cold and sick by this time); bus to Patterdale, and then a drive home in appalling conditions via the A69 (the 66 unsurprisingly being shut). Home at 8 pm desperate for a shower and bed.

I think Mum enjoyed herself – the early start took a bit of convincing, but she agreed it paid off. I think she too will remember the experiences of the day. And – she had the foresight to bring her bus pass! (hmmm, I must ask if she went to Brownies….)

We found out later that the race went ahead, but a shorter route – to CP3 and back. We had missed the runners by about a mile and a half – in my opinion, the wildest, windiest mile and a half in the country that day! Well done to Aaron, Elaine, Geoff, Juliet, and Patricia on the day – we were thinking about you even if you didn’t get the shouts and sweet treats!

After a day like this, I tend to reflect. What did I learn?
I want to experience more darkness and dawns amongst the hills.
I am definitely planning to do the Tour next year.
The life-skills learned at Brownies will remain with me forever (laugh if you want, but we played a game involving the order you wash your dishes, and that also remains with me).
And I obviously have more ballast than mum.

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Sedbergh Hills fell race, Sunday, August 19, 2018

Grand Prix Race - click flag for current league tables. King/Queen of the Mountain Race - click flag for more information. AL / 22.5km / 1830m

Nina Mason

Runners emerging from the cloudA small group of Striders (Paul, Geoff, Mike and myself, with Mum (Jan) supporting) headed over to Sedbergh for this GP race. The forecast was for rain/drizzle, with very poor visibility. I hadn’t run this before, so I’d recced the route a couple of times in similar conditions, and had my checkpoint split times and bearings prepared so I didn’t have to think too hard mid-race.

After the usual pre-race warning about kit, compass and a cut-off time at check 3, we were off. The race has a gruelling start climbing up to Arant Haw (check 1), and to spice things up the cloud base was very low – at times reducing visibility to a few yards (except for the finish, I think we only emerged from it once).

After check 1, a lot more climbing, descending….repeat. The last few miles is a glorious descent from the Calf (via the ‘bump’ that is Winder) which in good visibility is fabulous running. In the race, I was just focussed on staying on the grassy path in this section, aware of wraith-like runners around me in the mist.

I felt like I executed my race plan well – I used my bearings, checked my map, stuck to the route (from what I could tell) and finished just within planned time. It was great to see Mum at checks 1 and 5, peering through the mist looking out for us all – and joking aside, the mist was so dense we really could hear her before we saw her, chatting to the hardy souls at the checkpoints.

Hello Paul!Paul had a great run – as well as his fitness, I think his experience of the course showed. Despite the three of them sprinting away from me at the start, Mike then caught and passed me at check 2, and Geoff caught and passed me twice (yes, twice) at check 2 and check 5. It seems they both ‘strayed’ from the optimum race route and I suspect ran more miles than the race advertises! Perhaps at 57p/mile they didn’t think they were getting VFM. Different conditions on the day and this would be an entirely different race. As well as a number of DNF, there were a few tumbles – with poor Mike cracking his ribs (and then having to drive us home too….thank you, get well soon!)

This is without doubt one of the toughest races I have done up to now – brutal climbs, steep (some un-runnable) descents, sections with no ‘escape route’, ankle-straining gradient on what look like flatter sections, and pathless wilderness between checks 3 and 4. Not to mention the weather conditions. For me, this was much harder than Swaledale or the Yomp – I’m not used to so much climbing, and I know I need to get stronger on the hills.

The pluses – all of the above 🙂! And a well organised race, the beauty of the Howgills (weather permitting), and plenty of friendly, like-minded folks to enjoy it with. Oh, and hot showers at the end at the People’s Hall – what more do you need?

Despite it being tough (or because it was?)….I loved it. Even when my legs were screaming at me to stop. Fabulous race and strongly recommended.

If you are thinking about giving this one a go, I suggest do your homework, test yourself (legs and navigation), recce, recce, recce, and be prepared for anything the weather can throw at you.

Nina and Mike at the finishGeoff, Nina, Mike and Paul.

posbibfirstnamesurnamecattime
2774PaulEvansMOpen03:02:00
6576MikeBarlowMV4003:48:34
6684GeoffDavisMV6003:51:42
7675NinaMasonFV4003:54:40

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Swaledale Marathon, Saturday, June 9, 2018

Nina Mason

How it all started: flashback to 1995 – me and Mum coming into Reeth

17 and counting…

I ran (and walked) my first Swaledale in 1995. I was new to running and Mum (Jan) suggested we give it a go. It was hell. We did it together, and all I remember was her going on about the beautiful views, and me swearing at her a lot. A year later I was back – fitter, 3 months pregnant with Leigh, and up for it. I was hooked.

There are many great races/runs out there, and many reasons why we each have a preference. Swaledale is my firm favourite. I’ve been back most years (though a long break between 2011 and 2017) and completed it in a range of times. With a decent pottery collection now in use around the house, this year was number 17.

For anyone thinking about doing this, I would recommend it (though you may have realised by now that I am somewhat biased!) You need to be quick getting a number (they sell out fast in January), but for £21 you get a well-organised run/walk, water at all the manned checkpoints and cake and sandwiches at a couple, a hot meal at the end, a badge and pottery souvenir, lots of great views, and the chance to share the experience with other like-minded runners and walkers. You don’t usually need to use your map if the weather is good and you’ve recced the route (though be prepared to do so if needed).

This year – I wished Mum and a few other Striders luck at the start then didn’t see her again after the initial climb up to Fremington Edge. The weather was great – not too much sun, a bit of a breeze, and fairly dry underfoot. I was aiming for under 5 hours but a little worried about post-Yomp legs (only 6 days before).

One of the Swaledale ‘greats’ (Strider RotY in ‘93 and ‘99 – and stepdad – Tony Young) once wisely said ‘the race starts at Gunnerside’. It’s true. I often fade here – that climb out is tough with 16 or so miles in your legs – but when I got there, well within the planned time, I focussed on forcing myself to run at least the flats and downs (ok, jog). This year I managed to keep my pace going and passed quite a few people between there and the end. Pushing hard down the stony track into Reeth (my favourite bit of my favourite race) I finished well under target time.

Really hard work but thoroughly enjoyed the day. Good performances from the other Striders that turned out too.

The best bit for me, 22 years after her first ‘visit’, was seeing Leigh at the end and a big hug; and then (with Tony) cheering Nanny/Mum/Jan in.

I jokingly challenged Leigh to do this next year, but I think she declined. I’d be very happy to walk/jog at her pace, perhaps waxing lyrical about the glorious views…. after all, it never did me any harm.

PosTime NameClass
103.15.00Julian Simpson
R'mond & Ze
M
1003.28.00Amy Sarkies
Rugby/N'hampt
F40
803.27.00Michael MasonM
7604.24.00Matthew ArcherM
10304.37.00Nina MasonF40
21205.46.00Andrew ThompsonM
21305.46.00Jan YoungF60
42008.22.00Margaret ThompsonF60
42108.22.00Anita ClementsonF40

 

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