18km, 1500 metres ascent
This was my 5th shot at the Three Shires Fell Race, and I still get fairly confused about the fine details route, especially when it's super misty like it was today.
The race is 18km with 1440 metres ascent (11 miles, 4700ft climb) - a bit different to the advertised 12 miles, 4000ft. So technically the race shouldn't be classified as a Long race, since it's well under 12 miles.
Luckily the field for parking had dried up enough so we didn't need to use Hodge Close Quarry like last year, although it is a nice walk through from the quarry.
The race starts with speedy downhill tarmac to a perfectly functional footbridge which had been declared "dilapidated and unsafe", so it was early wet feet for everyone with a wade through the river.
After a mile of so I was settled into about 10th place with a bunch of Borrowdale vests in front, just blinding following when we all suddenly realised we had missed the obvious left hand fork of the main track that heads towards Wetherlam. There was much amusement from the massed field behind as we had to thrash back up to the correct track.
A few moments later at 3km when we crossed the fell intake wall the field began breaking up again. Some runners cut up early, whilst other carried along the track. Apparently cutting early is the best option.
The 550m flog up Wetherlam is the biggest climb of the race, and I found myself in familiar company with Tim Edwards (Clayton) just ahead and Gary Thorpe (Ambleside) and Mike Johnson (Bowland) just behind. The final section of the hill was cold and misty and I turned at the summit just in time to see Dan Duxbury vanishing into the mist. I had no sense of the right line, so waited for Gary Thorpe to pass and then followed.
Again it was cold, misty and rainy coming off Swirl How, and here Mike Johnson passed, so I used him to direct and pace me down to the Three Shires road crossing. We picked up Tim Edwards en route who must have taken a detour.
After the road crossing I took a gel and some drink and tried to take stock and run strong with the idea of dropping Gary Thorpe and catching Mike and Tim, however this never happened. Instead I was caught by a Chorley runner, Dominic Raby who dragged me up the hill, almost getting back to Mike by the summit of Pike o'Blisco.
The initial descent off Blisco is always pretty confusing but Mike's orange vest provided a good beacon to follow. I was trying to keep in contention with Dominic but he was getting away. Bit by bit I could sense Gary closing me down, and when he took a sneaky high level route across some hummocks he finally popped out in front just before the stile leading into the descent to Blea Tarn. The descent was desperately slippery and I fell 2 or 3 times on greasy rock in bracken.
After the second road crossing I tried hard to catch Gary on the way up Lingmoor, knowing he would know a good route off, but couldn't quite get up to him. Instead I reached the summit of Lingmoor with last year's winner Ricky Lightfoot powering on through, he must have taken a major detour, and I was impressed he hadn't just dropped out. I didn't follow Ricky's route but tried dropping rightwards to pick up the big contouring track. This perhaps wasn't the best move but it's the route I've taken in the past.
I didn't see anyone on the descent from this point, but couldn't have been that far behind Mike Johnson timewise. I finished 22nd in 2:11:49, about 17 seconds slower than last year, but in far more challenging conditions with mist and greasy rock.
The race was won by Chris Steele in 1:57:42, followed by Jim Davies, Nick Fish and Mark Roberts. The first 4 runners were all from Borrowdale and all within 11 seconds of each other.