Saturday, 21 September 2013

Three Shires Fell Race

Garmin track | Strava track | Results

My 8th shot at the classic Three Shires Fell Race. Everything a Lakes hill race should be. Low key. Entry on the day. Selwyn Wright commentary. Pasties and tea afterwards. In fact a more or less perfect day. Spoiled only by the 18km run over rocks and bog.

Without doubt, this was the mistiest hill race I've done. So misty it was like a scene from Hedgehog in the Fog where random runners would loom out of the murk at various random times, so you had no idea who was behind and who was ahead.



The start was a classic piece of Selwyn Wright comedy.  The runners were mingling and chatting in the road, awaiting further instructions, when suddenly and without warning Selwyn shouted "Go".  I was in the middle of showing my map to Konrad Rawlik as the stampede kicked off, so had to hurriedly stash the map, start my GPS, and chase after the pack of runners disappearing off down the road.

The comedy start did allow me to begin slower than usual, with a bit of queuing to get across the bridge, before I could start picking off runners as we hit the trail on the other side of the river. Bit by bit  I was passing all the usual suspects, including Adrian Davis and Chris Reade. Once I'd caught up Dan Duxbury I figured I was as far up the field as I should be, so decided to consolidate my position.

Once over the stile at the fell gate, Dan turned sharp left into the bracken so I followed him and Paul Knowles in their Ambleside vests. A bit higher we merged back in with the other runners.  As the slope steepened towards the summit of Wetherlam, I was caught and passed by Jane Reedy.  As we crested Wetherlam I quickly lost contact with Jane and the other runners ahead, so dawdled slightly to allow Chris Reade and Paul Neild to catch me to have somebody to chase.

This was enough to get me down to Prison Band for the rocky climb up to Swirl How.  I vaguely remember descending just behind Matt Beresford before Dave Armstrong caught me. I then tagged along behind Dave at what felt like a very pedestrian pace, but I wasn't keen to charge off into the mist and risk getting lost.  As it happens a large group caught us, passed us, and then promptly took the wrong path which forks rightwards and doesn't drop you down to the Three Shire Stone.

I had drifted off the back when I realised what had happened, cut back leftwards to hit the road, and hey presto I was now leading that group!  I scuttled along the road to pick up the path towards Pike o' Blisco, and then tried to push on to clear myself of the group behind.  I met up with Ross Litherland and Dave Nuttall for this section, and we worked well together on the climb to catch and pass a few folk, including Leigh Warburton who must have got in front when I took the detour at the road crossing.
Three Shires 2013 GPS Track
It was slightly galling at the summit of Blisco to see so many runners returning who I thought I'd been ahead of, but anyhow it was all very greasy on the rocks, and very poor visibility, so mainly a question of trying to stay upright and keep on the right bearings.  The section after Blisco is always difficult in mist, so I hesitated to allow Leigh Warburton to show the way.

I was just about keeping Leigh in my sights, although everyone else seemed to have the same idea about slip-streaming him. This meant I was fighting for path space, and getting repeatedly blocked and boxed in by slower descenders.  After the stile into the bracken, my path was once again blocked and my line chopped by the runner in front, so I decided I needed to take evasive action. Unfortunately just as I made my move, I hit a section of steep greasy rock that spat me off my feet, landing me hard on my back and then shooting me off clattering down the hill. I was winded and could hardly breathe when I stood up, but pottered on down not wishing to fall again, only once again finding I was boxed in again by the same runner.  I couldn't afford to fall again, so got round more tentatively and then headed off trying to catch Leigh and Ross.

All the group pretty much came together again on the climb up Lingmoor. I scrambled for my gel and Lucozade to hopefully to get a boost for the final climb.  I hadn't been running hard, so had expected to have a bit more oomph for Lingmoor but the pain in my back from the fall was making it difficult to breathe.  Anyhow, I pushed on enough to make sure Leigh was out of sight.

At the top of Lingmoor I couldn't see anyone behind, so thought I might have a clear run down to the finish, but not so.  I dithered around on the descent, not 100% sure I was taking the right paths given there was nobody around and no markings. But then suddenly I had Jane Reedy, Dave Armstrong, Chris Reade, Leigh Warburton and a few others all barreling down on me.  The pain in my ribs across my back was too uncomfortable to push the jarring descent, so I let the whole lot go past.

Once we hit the level track I injected some pace to fly past Leigh, and set me sights on catching Jane Reedy before the finish. She was probably 200 metres ahead with 1km remaining, so it was an almost but not quite impossible task. I aimed to run at my best 800m pace, to see if this would close the gap.  The gap was coming down, but nowhere near fast enough. When I hit the road with 200 metres to go, the gap was still not really catchable, but with a short burst of sub-30min 10k pace, I edged past just as we turned into the field.

It felt rather unchivalrous to nip past just before the line, but it was really just an experiment in pace management, and gave me something to think about for the final kilometre. My time was 2:29:55, which is more than 6 minutes slower than I've ever run before, but I was quite pleased to get round, and felt strong at the end of what was my longest run of the year timewise.
Three Shires Race Times

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