Saturday was the Titterstone Clee Fell Race. A straight up and down 4km sprint. Yes 4km, my shortest run ever I think and if I'd have known it would take me 1.5 hours to drive to Cleeton St Mary I may not have bothered.
Sunday was the Shropshire classic Long Mynd Valleys fell race cramming a fairly hefty 4050ft of climb into around 10.5 miles making it a FRA AM class (Medium length and lots of climb compared to distance).
I was partly drawn into doing both races by the promise of a prize for each completer of the double. Namely this splendid Longmynd Valleys weekend mug.
There's not a lot you can say about a 4km race.
I lined up with 47 others and listened to Mercia fell runners regular organiser Keith Richards with his usual straight to the point rules.
"Kit requirements for today is ...lots". Nobody was disagreeing and only a couple of hardy souls with bare legs were in attendance.
I'd never been to Titterstone Clee before so the plan was to just go with the flow somewhere around mid pack and try and keep up.
|Titterstone Clee summit - Photo Al Tye|
The descent was eyeballs out or should that be eyeballs watering and the chap I'd stayed with up to the summit gradually pulled away and was out of sight by the finish.
I was quite pleased that only 2 others passed me on the descent, so the verdict for day 1 descending skills was 'better than usual but still need more confidence'.
It was all over in 23:30 and I was quite pleased to be home in 12th position.
|Wrapped up just before the summit - photo Al Tye|
On to Sunday for the Longmynd Valleys race proper. This is as good as it gets in the Shropshire area for fell running and is rightly billed as a 'classic'. It even gets a mention in 'Feet in the clouds'.
Last years inclusion of the race as an English champs counter reinforced this classic status.
LMV was the first true Fell race I ever ran and that was in 2010. I really wanted to go back in 2011 but with it being a champs race I thought I'd just be getting in the way! So here I was again fitter and more experienced in 2012 for a proper go at it.
Some real fast runners here towing the start line. The usual Mercia suspects Pete Vale, Tim Werrett and Steve Cale. From Eryri, Rich Roberts and Rhys Findlay-Robinson making a special trip down from the Lakes.
With the weather a little warmer than the previous day and an evening snowfall never materialising, we are set on our way. I start off a bit nearer the front than usual as we head up Carding Mill Valley and past the visitors centre crunching through the snow.
It immediately becomes obvious on the first climb that it's not going to be my day as my chest begins to tighten and I struggle to catch my breath. I ease off a bit as usually when this happens I'm OK after 10 minutes or so.
The first descent beckons. I remember it well. I stay loose and knees bent and get down with nobody passing me. In fact, I overtook 2 people... unheard of.
Nothing really changed with the way felt. I'd stupidly eaten a flapjack before the start and just felt full and slow. I was just waiting to get hungry again and some zip into the legs.
This race consists of three things. Steep grassy uphills, Steep grassy downhills and low level valley trails.
The Up hills I was fine with and on each one was gaining 2 or 3 places and feeling strong but the down hills as usual saw me getting caught by the very people I'd just overtaken apart from the one descent that is.
Callow Hollow had stayed icy and with no tussock or heather to grip to the only way down was like this....
|Descending! into Callow Hollow - photo Graham Spencer|
I don't think there were many that found a running route around this but it would have been no quicker anyway. A right good laugh. All that could be heard were whoops and hollers from everyone. As I approached the bottom my foot landed right on a dirt mound lifting me back onto my feet to continue running. Couldn't have done it better if I'd have tried.
|Photo - Al Tye|
The climb up Callow seemed easier than my previous effort 2 years ago and I was gaining places again.
Similarly on the final climb up yearlet I held my position only to go astray again on the summit. I'd sort of memorised the map and knew to keep on the ridge for a while for a mellow drop to the fence. I completely fluffed this and lost about 10 minutes and around 30 places before plodding to the finish.
A finishing time of 2:21:37 which gave me 66th place out of 210 finishers. Not too happy with the result but a grand day out and lots of valuable lessons learnt, mainly if you don't know the way then don't guess it, keep the map out or keep up with the guy in front..
I should get up the Long Mynd more often as the climbs are like nothing you find on Cannock Chase and It's barely an hours drive away. I will definitely be recceing this route before next year.
The awesome photos from Graham Spencer and Al Tye can be found here and here and here
And results for both days and the combined here Titterstone, Long Mynd, Combined