Category Archives: Tom Reeves

Helvellyn and the Dodds Fell Race, Lake District, Sunday, May 29, 2016

Aaron Gourley, Tom Reeves, Penny Browell

I’d be lying if I said I was wasn’t feeling nervous about this race. As I drove over from a dull and damp north east across the A66 I was worried about low cloud. However, as I dropped into Cumbria my worries faded as blue skies appeared and the temperature started to rise.

The Professionals

Pulling into Threkeld Cricket Club, I made my way to registration, handed over £7 then dashed straight over to Pete Bland’s mobile shop to purchase some emergency equipment – a race map, blok shots and a spanking new pair of Walsh’s.

All set and ready for the off, Tom and Penny appeared and after a quick group picture it was time to run.

The first mile winds its way along a track then through a soggy field before we hit the base of Clough Head, here starts the long and torturous climb to the first check point.

For the next mile it’s a near vertical climb. My heart rate has hit 89%, and all I’ve seen for the last 10mins are the heels of those in front – Inov8, Salomon, La Sportiva – I pass the time studying each person’s shoe choice. All the while in my mind I’m thinking that this is going to be a horrendous descent, will the Walsh’s I have on cope? Will my legs cope? I need to keep something in the bank for this.

Briefly looking up for a moment to savour the views the summit of Clough Head is reached and its a long run down then back up to Great Dodd, via Calfhow Pike before skirting the summits of Watson Dodd and Stybarrow Dodd before dropping down to Sticks Pass.

From here it’s a slog up to Raise and the ground gets rockier and the crowds of walkers bigger. It’s also getting hotter.

From Raise the route drops down again before rising back up to the summit of White Side, It’s here the race leader of this out and back course, Carl Bell, comes flying past. He looks so strong, is minutes ahead of the chasing pack and as it happens, managed to break the course record by oner 2 minutes.

Dropping off White Side there’s a small climb up to Helvellyn Little Man and it’s here I hear words of encouragement from Penny and Tom as they make their way back from the summit of Helvellyn, the turn around point of the race.

I guess they’re around 10mins ahead of me at this point as I take my time up to the summit of Helvellyn. Turning around the race retraces itself back up and over each peak. I’m still feeling good but the temperature really starts to take it’s toll and I being to flag,

Approaching the final climb to the summit of Clough Head again I hit the wall and have to stop for a bit. There’s a paraglider about to begin his take-off, I wonder if he’ll take a passenger and drop me off at the finish.

The final descent is as torturous as I’d imagined. the lactic acid builds up in my legs and the heat has become unbearable as I reach the bottom for the final run in back to the cricket club.

3hr29mins of torturous beauty in the high fells of the Lake District on a simply stunning day. What more could you want from a day out running? Well there was lots and lots of cake at the end and the ginger flapjack was a real treat.

I wish I could smile and run uphill at the same time!

… Tom Reeves and Penny Browell

Descending Fast

TR: Although I’ve covered the ground of this race many time on various Bob Graham expeditions, I still studied the map which Penny kindly provided very carefully, as she drove me across to Threlkeld Cricket Club and the start of the race. This is a category A fell race for good reason with 4388 feet of ascent over a 15 mile out and back route covering long hard high ground. The day looked good for navigation with clear blue skies and sun. My main aim of this race was to get round in good form as it was my first lakeland race for quite some time.

PB: My aim was purely survival! Although I’ve done little bits of running and walking in the Lakes I knew this was going to be harder than anything I’d tried before so I wanted to get round without getting lost and ideally without completely dying on the second half.

TR: We bumped into Aaron who had also ventured over to take part and we headed for the start on the road beside the cricket club. After a quick photo opportunity we were off and soon spread out as the fast guys at the front pushed on. All too quickly we left the road and started the long thigh busting, back breaking climb to the summit of Clough Head (728 metres). Penny and I swapped places several times on the first half of the climb before she began to pull away from me. I just couldn’t keep up with her.

PB: I found the first climb hard but really wanted to get it done. Whilst we could see the frontrunners pulling away it was still quite congested in the middle of the pack and it was hard to get into any kind of rhythm so I kept overtaking people to find some space. I’d been warned it was probably the hardest climb and was delighted to get up it unscathed and feeling good. The view at the top was breath-taking – I don’t care how hard climbs are when you’re rewarded with landscapes like that!

TR: At the summit Penny was about 50 metres ahead and I gradually caught her on the long grassy very runnable descent from the summit toward Great Dodd and another slightly less steep climb. The sun was well and truly out by now and I was beginning to feel the pace a bit.

The pattern for the race was pretty much set by now…Penny would get ahead on the climbs and the flattish stuff; I would get ahead on the descents (being less sensible) On the drop down from Whiteside (863 metres) before the final rocky climb to Helvellyn the race leader passed us. I gasped a well done and pushed on to the summit as more and more runners ran past me on the way back!!

PB: The frontrunners were incredible as we made the final climb up Helvellyn. They seemed to literally fly down the mountain. The leader (who broke the course record) seemed never to touch the ground – as someone who struggles with downhills I was in total awe. Although out and back races sometimes seem less exciting it was an absolute joy to see such incredible runners show us how it’s done.

TR: There were quite a lot of people at the summit cheering us on which really does help. The views from the top were stunning as I felt a new injection of energy as I headed back. The run back is obviously a bit easier as you are generally heading down, but there are still a couple of naughty climbs which Penny was still blasting up.

PB: I think blasting up is an exaggeration – although there is less climbing on the way back it seemed a lot harder! I was starting to feel quite weak and sickly but managed to get some food into me and was spurred on by Tom and a Swaledale friend who were both still running well. It was also good to see Aaron heading up Helvellyn and to exchange tired “well done”s with other runners.

TR: We had a fantastic run down off Great Dodd and soon found ourselves at the summit of Clough Head and clearly the most difficult of descents after 14 miles of hard running.

PB: I’d been dreading this from the start – everyone told me the final descent was a killer and I knew I was going to lose some time here. Fortunately I was feeling a bit less sick and knowing this ridiculously steep and long hill was taking me back to tea and cake definitely helped. I knew Tom was going to get away from me but I just didn’t want to lose too many more places on the way down.

TR: I managed to overtake a good handful of runners but by the final road section my quads were little more than jelly and even though it is a gentle run down the road to the finish I was also finished and was nearly caught on the line by a woman! My stubborn male pride could not allow this of course and I crossed the line gasping.

PB: In the first half of the descent I was overtaken by a couple of runners and Tom gradually disappeared into the distance. But I felt slightly less wobbly than I’d expected and once we were off the really steep stuff I managed to get past a couple of people so I think ended up finishing in the same position as I’d started the descent. OK I was way slower than Tom but for me this was a minor victory!

TR: Penny arrived shortly after me and I gave her a congratulatory hug knowing it won’t be long till I’m following her in. Tea, sandwiches and cakes awaited us in the pavilion and it was a very pleasant prize giving out on the grass in the sun. All in all a very good race.

PB: Finishing the race was tough – the road seemed to go on forever but the sense of achievement crossing the line matched any marathon I’ve finished. I’d been pretty scared going into it as these Lakeland races are so much harder than the small fell races I’ve done in North Yorkshire and Northumberland. But it couldn’t have been better. For a mere £7 we got the most incredible climbing and running and stunning views in the most beautiful part of our country. I’ll never forget being half way up Clough Head and seeing runners spreading out into the distance both ahead of me and behind me. The atmosphere as we recovered after the race was fantastic and the cheese and pickle sandwich, Bakewell tart and tea were exactly what I needed. I’ll definitely be back to the Lakes for more…

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Wadsworth Trog, Hebden Bridge, Saturday, February 6, 2016

BL / 20m / 4003ft

Tom Reeves and Scott Watson

Tom Reeves …

Paul - Oxenhope Moor (50th in 3:37:13)This is a fell race that Chairman Paul has talked about on a number of occasions so I figured it was about time I checked it out. I must admit to being a bit apprehensive as the description of this race sounded quite dramatic and 19 miles is still quite a long way for me certainly in terms of racing, but I need to step up the miles so why not?

The Trog is hosted by Calder Valley Fell Runners and starts and finishes in Hebden Bridge. This meant an early start and a 2.5 hour drive. It’s therefore useful to make sure your fellow passengers are good company….unfortunately I was stuck with Paul and Scott (only kidding). We put the world to rights on the journey there and back and ran a 19 mile fell race in between. We registered in the Cricket Pavilion at Hebden Bridge which was warm and dry and nothing like the weather outside which was wet and fairly cold. Everyone I chatted with at the registration warned me it would be muddy on the course and boy were they correct! The course itself is pretty undulating but actually quite runable for most of its length. It’s a figure of 8 with checkpoint 1 also doubling up as checkpoint 11.

The race started at 10 and myself and Scott got into a nice steady jog run on the uphill start. Paul said bye and that was the last we saw of him! Scott and I ran together as far as checkpoint 2 which was along side the Reservoir then on the really boggy stuff Scott pulled away. I managed to land in a bog and sank up to my knees. Some other runner helped me out and I struggled along never quite getting into a good running rhythm to checkpoint 5 with Scott around 200 metres ahead. The rain was fairly constant as was the mud! I was running in my waterproof jacket and hat all the way and never overheated. It was chilly.Tom - Oxenhope Moor (69th in 3:53:08)

We finally got off the fellside for a while and onto some decent track around about checkpoint 6 and to my surprise I caught Scott up. Maybe I should go back to the roads? We ran together for the rest of the race. We also got into a good rhythm and managed to overtake quite a few runners in the small loop from checkpoint 11 to the finish. It was nice to hit checkpoint 11 and I think we could both sense the finish 4 miles away so that certainly gave me a boost and I quite enjoyed the last bits over the hills.

The finish back to the pavilion was uphill and required a heads down plod and did feel a bit strange to be nigh on walking to the finish line. We did manage a jog round the cricket pitch and Scott let me cross the line first, he’s a gent.

We met Paul back in the changing rooms washed and dressed with a sore ankle after turning it again. We had soup, tea and cake and clapped the winners before getting into the car and heading home.

I think it’s worth a run if you fancy something a wee bit more demanding than our local fell races as it certainly felt like a step up in terms of terrain and severity. It would be a good intro to longer fell races before heading to the lakes district for the big ones.

As for the copious amounts of mud? well I think Scott put it quite succinctly when he noted Wadsworth Trog? more like Wadsworth Bog!!

… Scott Watson

Scott - Oxenhope Moor (70th in 3:53:09)

Following on from Tom’s account above here are a few of my observations about the race: Firstly it was ‘grim’ and that’s not a word I use lightly when talking about the upland countryside we’re lucky enough to be blessed with in this part of the world. It was cold and made colder still by a constant blustery wind driving the rain before it from start to finish. There was mud and

bog of every depth, at every angle and of every sucking, sliding variety together with long stretches of heather that ripped unkindly at the legs of those of us who were hardy enough to wear shorts (Paul and Tom – not me).

It had been a long drive to get there after rising a 5.30am for what turned out to be nigh on four hours of self inflicted punishment but when all comes to all I wouldn’t have missed it. The company was excellent and the race made more interesting by being able to share it with Tom without having to compromise (or overly extend) my effort. Paul had to do his own thing because that’s what you get for being so much faster!

I’d made what I thought was a rather lovely map of the route that held up well in the wet conditions with the exception of a couple of points where the rain started to smudge the ink because I’d cropped the covering material too close to the edge. Although it’s required kit, you don’t really need one ‘cos when you aren’t at least up to your ankles in slime then you’re often on a fairly good trail which means that you can be pretty sure of where you’re going. It’s well marshalled (well done to CVFR) so if you do feel that you need to navigate you’re going to be a long way behind! However, for new races – particularly if they are long and demanding – I usually have one to hand so that I can gauge my effort, plus the discipline of staying in contact with the map gives me something to focus on other than my own discomfort.

Talking about marshalling I pitied the poor guys and girls who had to put up with the ‘gentleman’ (and I’m ashamed to say I think he was a geordie) who was quite literally screaming abuse at them because he was being held up at a road crossing. You could hear him from a hundred metres away through the mist. I’ve never heard anything like it. I’d have had the authorities check him out because nobody can be that angry without it spilling over into other areas – nasty man.

Not sure that I should be giving it away (though it’s there on the map for anyone that wants to look) but the finish on this one is set up as a bit of a ‘sickener’. After running a long way down towards Hebden Bridge in the valley bottom (incidentally there is a nice view across the valley, of Heptonstall church where, Paul informed me, the poet Sylvia Plath is buried) the course turns steeply uphill over more fields. However, it was so muddy this year that the gains to be made from running were simply not enough to justify the effort in my opinion, so it was somewhat bizarre to find ourselves walking towards the finish where normally you’re trying to prevent yourself from throwing up or having a cardiac arrest!

After having been made to trail round a waterlogged cricket pitch (one of the very few flat bits of the race) it was nice to be able to get a shower followed by tea/coffee and very nice selection of cake plus soup (of no specific flavour as far as I could tell) and a bun – all for the ridiculous sum of £8.00 (proof that it’s still not actually necessary to spend half a month’s salary if you want to give yourself a bit of a challenge). A good day was very definitely had by all and we still managed to get back for the second half of the rugby!

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Hogmanay Hooey, Bolam Lake Country Park, Northumberland, Sunday, December 27, 2015

Short Green

Tom Reeves

Tom's Sonic SunglassesAfter my previous disaster at the Durham night orienteering I can’t say I was overly enthusiastic about this but I was doing my duty and accompanying Joan who has now got the orienteering bug.

Learning from the previous event I did bring my new orienteering glasses so at least in theory I could see/read the map. We duly arrived at Bolam Lake in Northumberland around 15 minutes before the start time and watched fellow orienteers limbering up in the car park. Many of them wearing proper club vests!! and one gentleman in what appeared to be knickerbockers. Joan and I plumped for the same course. I was hoping we’d do different courses so I could save face and not get battered by her superior map reading.

I set off from the start first …well actually I set off once Joan had shown me where the start was on the map 🙂 The course we chose was short green which was one down from the longest. We had 17 checkpoints to find and the course length point to point was only 3.2 km. Checkpoint one was fairly easy although in my haste I did overshoot it checkpoint two had me baffled and feeling like groundhog day!! I wandered round in the woods only to see Joan who had started 2 minutes after me leaving for checkpoint 3. Well at least I knew where 2 was at long last. After my very shaky start I finally got my head in shape and started ticking off checkpoints up to checkpoint 10 which was described as a boulder on the map. After a good old wander in the woods occasionally seeing Joan who was having as much luck as me I decided to go back to checkpoint 9 and take a bearing. It was at this stage that the glasses came into their own as I noticed drainage ditches on the map and spied the very same things off to my right…bingo there was checkpoint 10 beside a small rock not a boulder.

I shouted Joan over coz I’m nice like that and set off for checkpoint 11 which was up a steepish hill. The last few checkpoints came thick and fast and before I knew it I was at the finish getting my readout. I held my breath …phew not disqualified, I’d got all the checkpoints, I was happy with that. Joan came in shortly after me and to my surprise I had beaten her by 43 seconds. Result.

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Eskdale Eureka, Castleton, North York Moors, Sunday, December 6, 2015

BM / 8M / 1500'

Tom Reeves

As Plan A, Hexhamshire Hobble was a no goer so Plan B got underway meaning me, Steph Piper, Chairman Paul and Aaron Gourley were heading down to Castleton (not in Derbyshire Steph) to run the Eskdale Eureka. The weather was improving and it looked to be a good decision. Steph finished her fell runners breakfast of a savoury mince pie mmmm and I contemplated my first proper fell race for quite some time. The weather at the start other than being a bit blowy was spot on for racing. We had to jog / run to the start and had only caught our breath when we were off.

Paul gave it some beans at the start and I attempted to keep on his heels assuming there must be a good reason for such a fast start; there was, after the fast downhill start we hit a short steepish uphill section and people started walking in front of me holding us all up. By the time I got running again Paul was rapidly becoming a distant purple dot.

The race starts and finishes along the same two miles or so of track with a big circuit in between making the race route look like a huge deflated balloon on a string on the map. The race is generally run-nable the only section which caught me out was a very short steep bit just before checkpoint two.

There was then a really very pleasant couple of miles of good steady moorland trod which you could really get into a rhythm on. There’s a short section of fairly rough stuff through knee deep heather before the one and only road section and luckily I had a runner in front of me who found every rabbit hole, bog and rock for me 🙂 he was uttering some choice words by the time we hit the road. I of course thanked him and ran off.

The route back follows the route out and I was caught somewhat by surprise by the finish as it seemed to appear remarkably quickly. I think I did as well I could have expected. Paul of course came in first Strider followed by me then Aaron with Steph as our final runner but credit must be given to her as this was her first fell race on her own as it were and she did brilliantly overtaking we think at least 5 women on the way round.

All in all a very good fell race and in my opinion just as good as the Hobble.

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British Fell Relay Championships, Pendle Hill, Lancashire, Saturday, October 17, 2015

Nigel Heppell and Tom Reeves


Nigel …

Pendle Witch Country. A big event well organised and smoothly run by this years’ hosts Clayton-le-Moors Harriers. Weather mild and cloudy with a bit of a breeze and good visibility at all elevations, ground conditions probably drier than usual.


LEG 1: Solo leg

7K approx with 450m of ascent over mixed terrain: farm tracks, pasture and open moor. Winning time: 30 minutes approx.

Mike Hughes

LEG 2: Pairs leg

15K approx with 630m of ascent over pasture and open moor. Winning time: 75 minutes approx.

Tom Reeves & Paul Evans map



LEG 3: Pairs navigation leg

Winning time: 70 minutes approx

Scott Watson & Nigel Heppell

A windswept Paul and Tom charged up the slope into the changeover area and set us away off up the hill. A few paces later I realised Scott was in trouble; something had popped in his calf muscle. Rapid assessment time – abort or press on?

The sensible thing to do was to call it a day; so we carried on. A horrible sensation of being overtaken by all these other teams as we walked and limped across a couple of fields to the corner of some woods where the navigation maps were handed out. Scott found a way to maintain forward motion and gradually increased speed by putting a big demand on his good leg while using the bad one as a prop.

First checkpoint at the bottom of Boar Clough (evidently pronounced ‘cloo’ in this part of Lanc’s) was easily found, followed by a stiff clamber up a track and then over the broken ground of Barley Moor; funny stuff this, lots of heather mixed with tussocks of grass masking surface rocks and a few leg-deep holes plus a scattering of peat hags and bogs some of which would support your weight, and some that wouldn’t. I managed to face-plant in style at one point and my knee came out in sympathy with Scott’s leg but we still managed to overtake a few teams, including NFR’s ladies.

Leg 3 map

Checkpoint B in Ogden Clough was manned by a Clayton Harrier who gave us a shout and said he’d seen us on the Howgills a few weeks earlier – I think Jan had spoken to him en-route to The Calf – more open moorland came and went before a very long and steep descent to checkpoint C. Not surprisingly this was followed by a long and steep ascent back up the hillside but we did claw back a few more places. A trundle around the edge of Pendle Moor led to checkpoint D and off we went to find E, somewhere out of sight just over the top of Spence Moor. Somehow our navigation went badly wrong here and it took a while to realise our mistake. In the rush to get back on course we went through some really broken ground and poor Scott took a tumble that really put his bad leg out of action. As this was the furthest point from the finish the only thing to do was to walk back and that is pretty much what we did. Before we reached the end section the leg 4 runners started coming past! Not the best run ever but at least we got round and completed the navigation.

LEG 4: Solo leg

8K approx with 400m of ascent over pasture land, open moor and farm track. Winning time: 39:20 minutes approx. Mike Bennett – 1:00:20

Having competed in last years event I was looking forward to this relay. Arriving at 9:30 and being down for the 4th leg meant I had a lot of time for the anxiety to set in, (no matter how many races I compete in the butterflies and anxiety are always there on the start line). This was not helped either as the first teams were finishing before I had started. Eventually I set off and was at last able to concentrate on the race itself with the main objective to not get lost then to get round in one piece. Race info stated the course was marked and marshalled. I am pleased to report this was the case. The sun was out at this point and I was able to take in brief glimpses of the stunning scenery as I picked my way around the course. At this point in the race there were very few runners still out so it became very much an individual race with just the occasional runner ahead to try and catch. With 2 long climbs and 1 steep descent then the final more gentle slope back to the finish it included most elements of a short but testing fell race. The few remaining spectators at the finish included Striders male captain and chairman, I could not be seen to be taking it too easy and tried to push right to the line. All in all great relay that lived up to expectations, hats off to Clayton Harriers for a well organised event.


Results: Elvet Striders – 133/147

Tom …

The camera showing Tom's best side.After the mass start of leg one leg two was a case of waiting for your leg one runner to arrive and get moving. Myself and Paul watched our watches and listened to Denise Parks announcing runners as they dibbed in at the top of the field before the descent to the change over.

Mike duly arrived looking strong and we were soon on our way. There was a short climb out of the start to warm up then we were soon in pursuit of our first team in front of us. Checkpoint 2 was at the top of a woods on a hillside and I was very quickly gasping (and this was to be a theme) holding Paul back. This was my first competitive fell race in 18 months and boy did I know! The distance for leg 2 was around 15 K and the hardest section was between checkpoint 3 and 7 with several steep climbs and immediate descents. I was doing pretty well on the descents lacking in brain cells and utilising gravity I could switch off and go. Unfortunately on the ups I was lacking in something else … lung capacity.

Final Approach

I was very pleased to reach checkpoint 7 as the going from this point was very runnable, even the uphill section.

On the final 2k descent I unfortunately disgraced myself by waving to one of the official photographers and was roundly told off by him. I do believe Paul muttered some impolite comments about me but we wont repeat them here!

We made it back to the changeover in a shade over 1hr 35m and had gained probably 12 places or so. This wasn’t bad I reckon.

shifty looking shower!

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Lakeland 50 (UTLD), Saturday, July 26, 2014

50 miles

David Gibson and Tom Reeves

The race briefing to this event stresses two unwritten rules. First, never refer to the race as “just the 50” (as many will know there is a 100 mile event as well)-it’s a tough event and an arduous route. Second, if you have a time in your mind –forget it. You never know what is going to happen out there so do not be disappointed.

Tom: I missed most of the briefing due to the overcrowding in the school haal and the heat which was already apparent even at this early part of the day.

The ability to follow instructions is something I struggle with-as my family will testify as I wrestled with building an IKEA desk for my son on the afternoon of my return from the race-so…

Usual milling around at the start, posse of Sunderland Strollers and a quick good luck to Tom. As we set off it soon became apparent that this was going to be a sweltering day and suffice to say that although the first 20 miles cover some beautiful Lakeland scenes-it felt like running in a desert (or doing the Coastal Run the previous week). By the time I hit Mardale Head and checkpoint two I was nervous that the next 30 miles were going to be a very unpleasant slog. Severe cramps (despite a ready supply of nuts, crisps and water) did not really help the negative mind set. Coming out of Kentmere –Checkpoint 3 –I met up with Tim. It was at this stage that rule 1 was broken. Tim was doing the 100 and had wanted to finish in 24 hours. It was not going to happen for him today but he was fighting on. Tom in previous reports has outlined the emotional rollercoaster of the 100 so there is no need to repeat it. Suffice to state-compared to the 100 –it is just the 50. Rule 1 broken.

Tom entering Ambleside flanked by his sons.

Tom: bumped into Dawn Metcalfe a DFR runner and chatted to her at the start line. She is a very good ultra runner as i would soon discover. The run to the first checkpoint was warm but manageble. The wheels satrted to come off for me big time on the trudge up Fusedale and then along the shore of Haweswater. By the time I reached Mardale Head i was finished interms of my hopes to break the 11 hr barrier. From now on it was going to be a long grind to the finish and finsihing was all i wanted to do. Dawn raced off after Mardale head never to be seen till the end when I eventually crawled in.

Into Ambleside and I started picking up the pace and felt fresh helped on by some kind words of encouragement from Joan and the lads. Lovely round of applause at The Wainwright pub and then a trot across the fells after the steps at Tilberthwaite. A jog to the finish and checked the watch – 1-2 minutes outside my intended goal. Rule 2 broken.

Tom: It was a long old run to Ambleside and it was nice to see the boys and Joan they gave me words of encouragemnt and told me Gibbo was only 10 minutes ahead of me. I hooked up with a couple of runners, one from Germany and one from Manchester and we finsihed the run together in the rain and the cold. Yes I’d gone from mild heatstroke to being chilled to the bones in the space of 10 hours. running in the mountains is not to be underestimated!

A quick debrief with Tom the following morning. In agreement that the conditions were tough and that perhaps we should stick to cross country. As I walked away I remembered I’d signed up for another 50 in October and no doubt Tom has similar, challenging plans in mind. Will we ever learn? Hopefully not …

Tom: That is it for me with the 50 and the 100. I feel I’ve done this enough times and it will be races anew next year. watch this space 🙂

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Lakeland Mountain 42, Askham, Lakes, Sunday, May 4, 2014

42 miles

Tom Reeves

The name of this race pretty much says it all. This is the higher level and longer version of the winter Tour De Helvellyn. As the blurb says “this is no tame trail race” “expect a very tough mountain trail route including the summits of Helvellyn and High Street”.

Like the TdeH the route starts and ends in Askham. Its uphill from the start as you leave the village and climb up onto High Street for some high level running on pretty good terrain.

The route then decends past Angle Tarn to checkpoint number four in Patterdale where there is the chance of a cuppa. The route then heads up to Grizdale Tarn and down Raise Beck to Thirlmere. This is now when the going gets tough as runners turn round and climb steeply up to Nethermost Pike and onto Helvellyn there’s a quick run along to White Side then a long decent down to Glenridding before a second cuppa at Patterdale. The sting in the tail is the climb up to Boarddale Hause and onward to Place Fell before tootling back along Ullswater to Askham and soup and cake. Easy!

This is only the second year of the running of this race and around 100 of us were stood in Askham at 6am on Saturday morning. Jo Faulkner said ‘Go’ and off we went into the drizzle which pretty much hung around all day. From Loadpot Hill to High Street we were in thick cloud and a head wind. I managed to drop too low when heading for Angle Tarn which meant a detour and extra climb! Doh!! The run down to Patterdale was slippy and the haphazard nature of hill running was on display when a fellow competitor trotted into the checkpoint with a deep gash on his knee and a loose tooth (he finished the race).

I was running on a two pie strategy so the cheese and onion pasty came out at the 18 mile mark heading up to Grizdale Tarn. At the tarn we were back in the cloud and the field was well and truly spread. I came upon two lost runners, one of which had followed the shore of Grizdale Tarn and completed a full circuit. We got down to Thirlmere and Checkpoint 5 before turning on our heels and clambering up the very long and steep drag to Helvellyn summit trig point. This was very tough indeed. A bimble into that damn head wind again took us to White Side. We then had a good long decent into Glenridding which battered the knees and the quads. It was 28 miles and pie number two a meaty one which went down very well. Re invigorated with food a plodded back to Patterdale and a sweet milky cup of tea and 3 jaffa cakes. This is my kind of running nutrition :).

The climb up to Boarddale Hause was short lived but hard work as was the climb to Place Fell. Now only 5 miles to go from Howtown to Askham and a couple of crispy cakes saw me through the steady climb home. I scraped in, in 10hrs and 50 minutes I’m not sure if that’s a particularly good time for this race but it was about as good as I could do, so I’ll be pleased and probably come back next year for more pie, tea and cakes. Oh and some mountains.

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Wasdale Fell Race, Lake District, Saturday, July 13, 2013

AL / 21m / 9,000'

Tom Reeves

A month after Ennerdale and I was at the start of another classic fell race on an even warmer day! God it was hot. Although shorter than Ennerdale this is reputed to be even tougher due to the terrain and the fact the last climb is “only” up Scafell Pike, Englands highest mountain.

It was uphill from the start and very quickly downhill for me! The start takes you up Illgill head and the ridge along the top of Wasdale Screes to Whin Rigg. There follows a steep decent into Greendale and the stifling heat of the valley. If my wife Joan had been at Greendale I am pretty certain I would have stopped after only 6 miles. The race goes past Joss Naylors house and he was there with buckets of water and drinks. My head went straight into a bucket of water. There were fell runners lying all over the grass looking very poorly they had obviously not taken notice of the race notes not to go to quick at the start.

Tom before the off ...

Well I joined the queue up to Seatallan a very very long climb but at least there was a bit of breeze higher up. There were also plenty of streams to dip your head in and drink from which I duly did at every opportunity. From Seatallan the route takes you round to Pillar and a long decent then brutal climb up Great Gable. The climb up GG was physically my lowest point on the race I had eaten two gels that’s how bad it was! And I still had nothing in the legs or tank. The run down to Styhead Tarn really battered the quads and the pull up to Esk Hause strained the lungs to bursting point.

I passed a chap on the final climb up to Scafell Pike and I asked him how he was doing at which point he projectile vomited across the fell side. Needless to say he wasn’t having a great time. The run down from the summit to the finish I’m sure on any other day would be such fun but after 20 leg battering miles I struggled all the way to the end.

Both these races totally humbled me. I’ve done a few ultras and a lot of fell, but these are in a totally different league. If you ever fancy doing them you have been warned 😉

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Ennerdale Horseshoe, Lake District, Saturday, June 8, 2013

AL / 23M / 7,513'

Tom Reeves

After finally getting into the medium pack this year in the cross country league I needed something to focus on so I decided to have a crack at the Lakeland classic series. I asked Geoff Davies about these races and he told me they were tough and not for the faint hearted.

So there I was on the shores of Ennerdale on the 8th of June, new racing pack on my back with some very fine fell runners on a very warm day. I was sweating and we hadn’t even started!

After a mile or so along the lakeside the climbing began, and what a climb – it went on seemingly for ever. I was already breaking into my rations by the first top: Great Bourne. The legend that is Joss Naylor was there to shout encouragement. There then followed a very pleasant ridge run contouring round Starling Dodd, going over Red Pike and contouring High Style, High Crag and Haystacks looking down into Buttermere on the left and Ennerdale on the right at various points. The sky was clear, the views were very special and the going was tough.

I knew I was in trouble on the climb up to Green Gable when I ate a gel. People who know me know I carry gels not to eat just to warn me that when I do want one I am in serious bother! My legs were shot and it was only half way. The next section over Kirk Fell and Pillar is well known to me from my Bob Graham Round and the numerous times I’ve accompanied others. At the summit of Pillar I checked my watch 3hrs and 20 minutes. Kenny Stuart won the race in this time in 1985 (the record) and I still had another nine miles to go!

This last nine miles was tough and painful I had no energy left and I just ground out a lot of slow miles. This is hard core fell racing. I finally stumbled across the line in 5hrs and 45minutes in 86th position totally battered by this classic and arduous fell race.

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Tour De Helvellyn, Saturday, December 22, 2012

BL / 60km / 2000m

Tom Reeves

This race is in its 3rd year and is a race for runners who are able to navigate and look after themselves in the mountains in difficult conditions. It is always run on the shortest Saturday of the year so being able to move quickly is an advantage. I think its going to become a classic.

However as I sat in the Travelodge the night before the race watching the weather I really did not want to do the run the following day. Torrential rain and strong winds! Err no thanks!

I did this event in 2011 with Geoff Davis and I was doing it again with Mr Davis. We set off from Askam village hall at 7.30 in full waterproofs top and bottom and finished many hours later in full waterproofs. We set off with another runner Chris Little who runs with NFR and set off with us the previous year. The weather was wet but not as wet as expected and although the wind was cold it was not too strong.

The race itself is 38 miles on pretty good tracks most of the way passing through Howtown on Ullswater then Patterdale via Boardale Hause (the first big climb of the route). Timing is pretty important as checkpoint 2 at Patterdale does not open till 9.30 am and you must pass back through it on the return journey no later than 4pm. Our timing was pretty much spot on on the way out and we hit the checkpoint just after 9.30 going at a nice comfortable pace. We stayed together as far as the climb up sticks pass when myself and Geoff pulled slightly ahead of Chris. I felt the cold for the first time as we hit the snow line and spent the next 15 minutes or so running through ankle deep ice cold water. I contemplated putting more clothes on but didn’t bother deciding the decent to Thirlmere would warm me up as we lost height. It did. Heading out from checkpoint 4 at Stanah Gill Geoff jogged along eating a gel while I chomped on a pasty can you guess who enjoyed their top up more?

Myself and Geoff swapped taking the lead all along Thirlmere which is always longer than expected. I pulled away from Geoff on the steep climb up Raise Beck to Grisedale Tarn, I was going quite well till I took a tumble on the run down from the tarn to Grisedale and back to Patterdale. I somehow managed to trip on the worst bit of ground clattering my dodgy knee. I lay on the ground sure I’d smashed my kneecap. After a couple of minutes and several expletives I took a few tentative steps and boy did they hurt. I kept at it and managed to pick up the pace catching a group of runners I’d been tailing for some time.

The rest of the run from Patterdale is the reverse of the start of the race and fairly runnable once you’ve got back up over Boardale Hause. By the time I got to Howtown I knew I was going to better my time of last year and so I did finishing in 8hours and 25minutes. 35 minutes better than 2011. This was down to better running conditions and not better running I might add.

Geoff came in not long after me bettering his time by even more than me. After race food was fantastic loads of home baked cake lots of mugs of tea and very tasty homemade carrot soup.

This is a great event and clearly others agree as the race has doubled in entry numbers since last year. I think it might be a regular for me.

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