This was my second stab at the 60 mile classic and yes last time I was very nervous with not knowing what to expect. I went off too fast and by the third big peak, Gragareth was feeling wasted and that was only 13 miles in. I got to Dent and perked up a bit after a sit down but only got as far as Blea moor before going hard over on my ankle on some Tussocks. Thinking I could walk the injury off I carried on but it just made it worse and the pain increased, especially on the descents. I jacked it all in at Redshaw, more or less half way and caught the body bus back to Threshfield.
Lessons learned from that day where.
The first 3 peaks of the Fellsman are the biggest so don't over cook it at the start.
Make sure you keep eating all that's on offer at the checkpoints. The Fellsmenu has been scientifically adapted over the events 49 year history.
Don't wear X-talons that are half a size too big just incase your feet might swell up. For rugged tussocky terrain you need a well fitting shoe. and don't put another pair of socks on over the ones you already have on. This made the foot movement even worse.
So on to this years attempt...
This time it was going to be different, I knew what the first half had in store and I was more mentally prepared and feeling positive. The main goal was to simply finish. None of this 'go as fast as you can ' stuff, that can wait until another time, anyway I want to make sure I have enough qualification points to enter UTMB next year. The Fellsman will give me 3 then I only need 2 more from one other race.
Driving up to Threshfield on the Friday night the sky was looking bleaker by the minute and a clag was forming on the peaks, it was not looking too promising. I went and registered then realised I hadn't booked my floor space in the school hall but that was OK, I'd planned on sleeping in the car anyway I just couldn't get to sleep last time on a thin sleep mat and the lights on.
A new 'night before' kit check was a new feature and I was quick to get in there to get the golden ticket although it did take me 2 goes as I'd forgotten my spoon, yes I got rejected for not having a spoon. Another chap got pulled aside for not having a bandage. They don't mess about on this one.
|The Fellsman Tally|
I jumped on the air bed in the back of the car at almost midnight and was up again at around 4:30 for a porridge and fried egg breakfast. In the queue was a chatty scotsman but I couldn't understand a word he was saying, something about Jez bragg, the Hardrock 100 and how he managed to get a place but Jez didn't and then asking me if I was doing the west highland way race. I think he was some sort of veteran west Highland Way runner. That's another race on the radar.
With space on the early 6:15 bus to Ingleton I jumped on even though I had a 6:45 ticket and sat next to a Threshfield local Dave Dixon who only took up running last year and had entered the Fellsman as training for the Lakeland 50. He was looking real nervous but needn't have been, most of his local runs are all on the Fellsman course and he knew some really good lines. He finished a good 3 hours in front of me.
The bus arrived over 2 hours before the start and with everyone already kit checked we all breezed through to go straight to the tally and number collection then on to the waiting area for a good long cup of tea and flapjack.
All the tables in the waiting area had a copy of the revised route around the infamous fleet Moss and Middle tongue sections. The new owner of the land around this area had introduced an exclusion zone on the grounds that nesting grouse would be there. The checkpoints of Middle Tongue and Hell Gap had been moved South by quite a distance and there was much talk of route choice. The route I had chosen around the side of Fleet Moss would not be affected too much and the Middle Tongue section would just be a case of not losing too much height and contouring around to it.
Nutrition plans for this event were a bit more relaxed but things of note were 2 X pro plus 2 hours before the start but no beet it shots this time, I just didn't get any but I did have a juice drink bought from Knutsford M&S on the drive up which contained beetroot and black current. A lot more palatable. I drank about 1 litre of water between my 4:30 get up to the 9:00am start. 500ml of that had electrolyte. I only carried 2 Zip Vit choc & Strawb energy bars as food. Oh and the same 300gram block of marzipan which I carried last year as emergency not to be eaten food.
|before the start|
As seen in the elevation profile the first 3 climbs are the biggest. Starting with Ingleborough but in the opposite direction to the 3 peaks route meaning that the steep rocky part is taken as a descent. I take this easy as the chances of falling are quite high but still feel rushed as others impatiently try to get past, some falling and slipping over, what's the point. At the bottom the track opens out and I pass the ones that have just passed me down Ingleborough. The first checkpoint Hill Inn has a few refreshments. I won't elaborate on all I ate ate this stage in the post as there is a summary at the bottom .
Some good tracks next and leading up to the bottom of Whernside we pass many 3 peakers. The ascent is a chance to pass the runners coming the other way and see how they are bearing up. The terrain up until now is rocky paths and runnable trail but it starts to become softer, boggier and more tussocky as we descend towards the Kingsdale checkpoint. This was now the time to see if all that orienteering in rough terrain, wobble board training and ankle strengthening exercises would pay off. Despite all this and 12 months since the big ankle twist I'm still slow on the descents. I just need the confidence back.
|Kingsdale is dry. Checkpoint ahead and Gragereth behind the trees|
2 Flapjacks for the steepest climb of the day up Gragereth and I'm pleased with progress so far. I feel better than I did last time at this point around 13 miles in. The flattish part next over to Great Coum before the cobbled descent into Dent was all run and then into first real checkpoint of the day. I made sure I ate as much as I could get in at this one as if I got hungry before Stonehouses, the next big feed, it would be a miserable time.
|Dent checkpoint getting busy|
|A grand looking 16 month old rescue collie in training. Apparently from the same blood line as the X-factor dancing dog!|
|Stone House buffet tent|
Next up was the slog up past the viaduct and on to Great Knoutberry. We stupidly got persuaded by another group to hop a fence at this point and take a diagonal more direct route to the top of Knoutberry this saved no time as the terrain was draining long grass. Should have taken the designated route straight up and down the same way along the wall. From Knoutberry to Redshaw comes in no time and I'm feeling quite pleased with myself as I've fed well, am full of energy and as soon as I step out of the tent I've improved on my previous effort.
I hook up with Ian again and take a gentle stroll through the next set of checkpoints, Snaizeholme, Dodd Fell and down to Fleet Moss. I've got to admit the section from Redshaw to Fleet Moss was the easiest part yet as regards to terrain and navigation and I was still feeling great and enjoying it. A lot of runnable parts that should have been run.
Fleet Moss Checkpoint was rammed inside and I sat next to a guy that looked as white as a sheet and was moaning and saying he was struggling. He had not eaten much and was suffering. I did suggest the very fine soup and roll but he couldn't be tempted. It's the slippery slope to retiring when you get that way but a good feed will pick you up in no time. We left him to it.
|Nothingness around Middle Tongue just before dark|
We had acquired another member to our party and as we were all moving at the same speed Richard decided to stick with us and help with navigating.
Middle Tongue to Hells Gap was a strange leg with featureless terrain, it was a case of taking a bearing and sticking to it. In about 20 minutes I was questioning if we were on track. With much head scratching and map reading we decide we were off a bit and went for the Northern most fence as a handrail. It worked but seemed to take forever to reach the checkpoint. This was my only low point of the race. Feeling a little weak I broke out a Zip Vit energy bar and a pro plus. I felt right after 5 minutes. Between Mid Tongue to Hells gap it had changed from day to night.
It was only a short 20 minutes down a rocky path to Cray the checkpoint where we were to be grouped. At least 4 members are needed. As we arrived there was a group of five just leaving and then it was just us three waiting... waiting.. getting cold. "there's a group just coming in lads" We didn't rush to attention just yet as the group coming in were sure to want refreshments. Then the group turned round and went back up the path. They had missed Hells Gap altogether and needed to go back to clip their tallys.
More waiting. Another 2 groups came in. The one with seven in didn't want any more people with them, fair enough. The next group had already been officially grouped at Fleet Moss but the checkpoint marshall said we'd been waiting long enough and would be added to theirs but then with his back turned the buggers ran off, thanks guys. They obviously didn't want anyone else with them. This could be a long night.
The marshall was very apologetic but it wasn't his fault. We eventually left with a couple of guys who'd ran the event before and 84 minutes waiting time was scribbled on our tallies.
The night section was great with simple navigation, baring a slight detour while climbing Buckden Pike. Talk was of "only 2 climbs to go", this didn't bother me, I like the long climbs.
The two lads manning the checkpoint on top of Great Whernside are heroes. A small tent nestled between some rocks on the windswept summit and a radio playing 'on top of the world' by the Carpenters. Surely taking the p**s. They must start that up every time they hear someone coming. Made me laugh .
About a mile from the final Yarnbury checkpoint the sun starts to rise and the headtorch gets put away. Feeling fit and fully awake I realise that I haven't ran a step since probably coming into Redshaw at half way. I feel a mixture of dissapointment that I haven't tried that hard and relief that I'd got this far anyway. My target time of 18 hours was now looking to have slipped away but I am happy that next time I could easily knock 2 - 3 hours off.
At Yarnbury in full daylight we are degrouped. Three of the group decide to carry on walking but Richard fancies a run and so do I. We set off slowly together, I feel fine but Richard stops after about 100 metres. I carry on and can't stop.
It was all downhill from Yarnbury for 2 miles with just a little hill up to the finish. I arrived 16 minutes before Richard and 22 in front of Ian.
I have my final tally clip at around 5:30 in the morning and am in the car asleep at 5:40. after 2 hours sleep I am awake again and drive home.
The eventual winner was an in form Jez bragg with a course record of 10:05 followed by Adam Perry 1:39 behind. A stunning 3rd place for Nicki Spinks only 6 minutes behind Adam. Mark Hartell, multiple winner of the Fellsman unfortunately pulled out after a hamstring pull just before Kingsdale.
Results are up here
I am happy with the 18:41 it finally took me to get round but as stated before I had loads left in the tank and felt great. It was a social walk that's for sure. Probably too social.
Next up ...the Housman Hundred next week .....gulp!
Heres what I ate throughout the Hike.. a fine feast:
Hill Inn - 3 biscuits
Kingsdale - 2 flapjacks more water
Dent - Cheese pasty, cup of beans, bread roll, coffee, 2 biscuits
Stonehouse - pasta, tomato sauce, grated cheese, madeira cake, coffee, 2 biscuits
Redshaw - 2 sausage hotdog, soup, tea, 1 slice malt loaf
Fleet moss - soup, cheese roll, tea, 3 custard creams
Cray - cup spaghetti hoops, ham sandwich, hot chocolate, tea, 3 biscuits
Park Rash - 10 cocktail sausages, 1 round bread, butter, coffee, 5 custard creams.
Yarnbury - nothing
+ 2 zipvit choc & strawberry energy bars. 1 throughout first half then another around Snaizeholme to Dodd Fell.
+ 2 sachets zipvit tropical energy powder drink
Probably between 1 1/2 - 2 litres water with the powder in. Less than usual because it was quite cool.