15 October 2008
and finally the Langdale Horseshoe!
Arriving in apocalyptic conditions-water flowing though the campsite car park, flooded fields, gale force winds-I was unsure that would have the resolve to even start the race. Thankfully we woke to discover blue skies and grass where there was once a pond, oh and the fact that we had camped very close to our neighbours!
I have never been so nervous about the start of a race before, in fact I'd been feeling that nervous sickness since Friday night. I was hoping for a 4 hour finish, as I ways add 2 hours to the previous winners time and it seems to work out! However, Lake District miles are like no other, so it was a bit of an unknown. As we made our way over to the start the smell of fear was in the air. Well, the smell of deep heat and too much energy drink for breakfast hung around the portaloos!
My plan was to start at the back, try and gain some places on the first ascent, then get to Bowfell and find a group that looked like they knew where they were going and stick with them. I knew the route up until Bowell and for some reason had convinced myself that if I could make the cut-offs before that I'd be fine!
And we're off! The usual back of the pack walking past the start line and the usual back of the pack banter-they may well banter at the front but I have never been there! "Come on this isn't a ramblers meet!" as we strolled along what was essentially a stream along the back of Old Dungeon Ghyll. The friendly chat came to an abrupt end as we headed up Stickle Ghyll. All you could hear was panting, snotting and some swearing.
Before you know you're at Stickle Tarn, the views were amazing and I was feeling relatively ok and there were still some people behind me! From here it was pretty much good running all the way over to Angle Tarn. All be it very wet under foot and quiet a few crotch deep bog moments. I'd already stopped counting the number of falls I'd had by this point.
Angle Tarn to Bowfell is a killer. It was a lot of up and then a lot of slippery rock traversing under Esk Pike. With fantastic views views across to the Scarfell range I was wishing I'd taken my camera, and was almost forgetting the burning sensation in my lungs.
So, I'd made it Bowfell, I was feeling confident, a little too confident. I had not done this part of the route before but instead of checking the map I bounded Bowfell in the general direction of Crinkle Crags. Then all of a sudden I couldn't see any other runners anywhere. Thankfully, someone in the far distance was wearing what looked like an Inov-8 bumbag-nice and fluorescent. Only a runner would have that, I scampered after them.
Luckily this time it was the right choice and the woman I caught up with chose a brilliant line up to Crinkle Crags. I kept wanting to go faster but knew that I'd get lost. Once I could make out the summit I politely thanked her and pushed on. From here was the infamous 'Bad Step', an iconic image of this race and I wanted to take that route off the top.
The clag had now come down and visibility was poor, it may have even been drizzling at this point. Four mountain hardy looking men jogged off the summit talking about 'Bad Step'. Again I joined a group and didn't bother to check the map myself. We seemed to be re-tracing our steps, I didn't remember this on the map but we were moving fast so I carried on. After about 10 minuets the blokes stopped and started having a "discussion" about the route. Aaarrrrh! I'd followed the wrong group, why had I not bothered with checking the map.
Jane's photo of Crinkle Crags taken from the Langdale Pikes.
I decided the best course of action was to retrace my steps back to Cringle Crags check point and start again. Back at the check point I asked one of the marshals which way for 'Bad Step' and he duly pointed in the opposite direction we had originally gone. The marshal then asked from my number and I had to embarrassing explain that I'd already been past this point...at least he had the kindness to say I wasn't the first!
And there it was, the 'Bad Step'. Ordinarily I probably wouldn't have thought it a challenge but with race weary legs and the pressure of other runners literally climbing over each other to get down, I was terrified. It looked like at least 10ft with no foot holds and one greasy hand hold at the top. I had to lay in a puddle of very cold water and ease myself off into the unknown. Actually it was really easy and once over the edge the holds were easy to find-the tricks your mind plays with you.
Again it was good running from here to the foot of Blisco. I was determined to make up some places due to the previous navigational cock-up. I really pushed hard and was surprised at how many people I over took. From the summit the marshals cheerfully pointed that is was all downhill from here! 2000ft (and bit) of thigh burning, ankle turning, knee crunching pain!
By this point I was tired but already starting to feel that finishers high. I was certainly going to make this now, so lets enjoy it. Suffice to say this was the worst part of the race for me. I fell over so many times, people who I'd passed at the bottom of Blisco were charging past me. I just couldn't seem to get any grip on the wet grass. It was a very frustrating 30/40 minutes. I knew my shoes were getting old but this was ridiculous-yes, that's right I'm blaming my shoes, nothing to do with lack of skill or fitness!
As soon as we hit the final 400m of road I started to run as fast as could and managed to catch at least 2 runners. This made me feel slightly better and it was a good 'glory run'! It took me just over 4 hours. I'm a little disappointed with that time but if I'd navigated myself and had better grip on my shoes then maybe I could been a little faster. But that's the nature of fell running, anything can happen. The winning time was twice as fast as mine-amazing.
I have been on a high ever since. This race has everything, fast running, bog, scrambling, navigation, rocks, stunning views and most importantly starts and finishes at the best pub in the world.
On Saturday the 11th of October I was a fell runner...
Nearly forgot, on Sunday Jane and I had a fantastic run around the Kentmere Horseshoe. We did it anti clockwise which I think is the most interesting way. Spotted loads of good singletrack which I'll be coming back to and a runner from the Langdale race. An excellent weekend followed by two days of unpacking, washing and trying to dry kit. Life is good.