Wet. Wetter than wet.
To term a phrase “it was wetter than an otters pocket” … and I doubt you get 60mph winds in an otters pocket. Or peat bogs.
Carrock Fell Race takes place as close to me as a fell race is able to get so it’s a local one, if you deem a 30 minute drive local, but it’s where Craig (my twin brother) and I started to run when getting into fell running and we still get up High Pike when we can, especially during the light summer nights. We even took Andy, our older brother on his first fell run up High Pike over Christmas.
So anyway. It’s local. The weather forecast that on Friday morning said it would be blustery, with low cloud and no rain until 2pm got steadily worse. It rained most of the day Saturday and Sunday morning the wind had picked up too. So much for the weather forecast. But then, it is the Lake District.
I was due to pick Craig up at 9.45am, I arrived early to spur him on as I knew he wouldn’t be ready. Before I had even knocked on the door there was a shout from the open bog window upstairs
“Come In!” pre-race poo and all that. 10 minutes later we were on the way and on time.
“Sorry mate, the car park is waterlogged. You’ll have to park on the verge. But make sure you keep 2 wheels on tarmac.” Exclaimed the steward as he pointed us where to park. Guess it’s damp underfoot then…
Sitting in the van watching the race registration sign clinging for dear life to its post I wasn’t filled with optimism. This is where doubts always start to creep into my head before almost any race. Even at parkrun I get nervous about who I can run with. “Do I really need to do this?” “You might get injured” “You don’t feel good today”… piss off, it’s gonna be great fun.
At registration we were informed of the diverted start due to the stream being in full spate, we were to follow a flagged section and cross over a footbridge, it would add about half a mile. Being a bit of a novice fell racer, I wasn’t sure of what I was going to wear, shorts obviously. But I was torn between a merino baselayer and vest or thin layer and waterproof jacket. Having walked 50 yards to register I went for the merino baselayer AND the waterproof. A very good choice.
A token warm up consisting of a 500m run up the track and back, including a wee that I tried to point in the right direction and then it was to the start to be counted into the start area. A safety measure to make sure everyone is accounted for, and vital on days like this.
The hooter sounded and 100 shivering people set off across a mossy sodden hill following the red flags. This section was decent going, it was mainly downhill and with a bit of adrenaline from the start it felt easy. That soon changed. Crossing the bridge we started to climb towards the base of the fell. This part wasn’t easy. With saturated tussocky ground on a slight incline and a strong wind into our faces my legs were on fire and we were running at 10min/mile. I quickly decided that marching was the best solution, a stooped and bent over hike that would look very odd, had a whole line of people not been doing the same. Apart from the 10 or so guys ahead who kept running.
The climb up Carrock is a steep one. Craig decided to head straight for the summit, we had talked about this but I was ahead of him and, being unsure of the right line to take didn’t want to go wrong so I stayed on the path with the rest of the field. Turns out it was a good decision, the conditions made it quicker to go slightly longer. Half way up my calves were screaming, I was desperate for a change in gradient to relieve my legs. Yes! A flatter section, I’ll have a run on the bit. Nope. Stomping it is. I made a few places on the climb and as I got to the top of the fell and started climbing the tumbled stones and rocks that litter the summit the leaders were coming past me in the opposite way. I was surprised how close I was. After nearly getting blown off my feet trying to show the marshall my number it was back down and off towards High Pike. We were really into the wind now, and I could hardly see for rain in my eyes as I slowly picked my way through the rocks again.
Slogging across the boggy area wasn’t any great fun. One of the guys I passed on the climb skipped ahead of me over the rocky section and now I settled in behind him. Focusing on his heels and not looking into the weather. We made good progress and soon caught another runner, I was at the back of the three, luckily, as I slipped jumping a pool of stinking soup and went down flat on my face, head and shoulders submerged I came up spluttering and spitting out peaty water. It’s a mark of the conditions that I wasn’t any wetter than I was before falling. I’ve no idea how but I didn’t lose any ground.
As we started climbing I moved ahead of the others and turned right and up to High Pike summit, a quick wave and a thank you to the marshalls and their tent, I veered right and down the lovely grassy track that’s great for opening up your stride. I knew laddo would be coming so I tried to stay relaxed and not worry about him. He passed me about half way down, but not before he shouted that I was taking the wrong path. Very kind. I’d have let him go an extra 20 yards first (jokes). With the wind howling it was hard to hear anything that was going on around you, apart from the flapping of your jacket and your feet splashing on the flooded paths. And so, as I rejoined the track with 100m to go I glanced behind me not expecting to see anyone, least of all that of GB trail runner Kim Collison. A mental “HOLY F*&K!” and I sprinted for the line expecting to be caught. I wasn’t. Amazing how a jolt of fear can give you an extra kick for the line. In fairness, he had gone off route a couple of times in the clag. I’m not sure how intent he was on racing at that stage. Turns out a few people had done the same, which meant me and downhill runner were bumped up a couple of places. I came home in 53 minutes and in 5th place, absolutely buzzing.
Craig arrived a minute later in 11th, a few handshakes and “well dones” and it was back to the van. A quick change and off to meet Rosie, Gemma and Joe for steak pie and chips in the pub. Marvellous.
Distance – 5.7 miles | Climbing – 1600 feet | Time on feet – 55mins