High Terrain Events have always delivered some of my favourite races over the years. Fond memories of snow on the Whinlatter duathlons, 4th place at Scafell Pike Marathon (still one of the most varied races you could wish to do), pulling my calf warming up for the Borrowdale 21k and marshalling for hours in the clag and rain at Stake Pass on the 3×3000. Ian, Emily, Simon et al put on professional events in stunning locations that always seem more relaxed and have less pomp and ceremony than fellow event companies.
The route was two 25k laps comprising the lake shore, forest roads up to black sail hut, and then a return on the opposite side through trails and a very technical 5k section on the other side of the lake. As the first half is extremely runnable I set off at about 6.30 to 6.40 minute mile pace, attempting to mirror a road marathon (good prep for Nottingham in a few weeks time I thought) and found this was easily doable as although there were undulations and a steady climb to the hut it was nothing major (not by fell race standards anyway). I was in 2nd place at Black Sail hut (halfway through the first lap), was caught by Dave Troman (Mountain Fuel) but managed to stay relatively close to him and we weren’t too far behind the lad in first who seemed to have a really efficient cadence and running style but seemed to slow on the technical terrain.
Mind you saying that my pace dropped dramatically too on the final 5k section which you definitely underestimate in terms of technicality, especially after the rain we had which just about eased on the second lap. Lots of tree roots, streams, ups and downs and rocks of different shapes and sizes meant very slow going, coupled with an ascent over “anglers crag” where some fixed ropes had been set up and an experienced marshal helped runners over it if they required it.
I arrived at the end of the first lap after 2 hours, and just over a minute behind 1st and 2nd place. I thought it was worth getting some food and drink at the aid station (it was excellent after all!) and a loo and shoelace stop meant I lost a bit of time on those ahead (as apparently they didn’t stop).
I remember similar altercations with trees when I have been snowboarding…
The final technical section felt far easier second time around, the lack of rain helping things, although as I approached the fast descent to the foot of Anglers Crag for some reason I started thinking to myself “oh you wouldn’t want to fall here!”…obviously I then fell! Such a stupid little trip on a really non-difficult innocuous section, albeit with an exposed drop to your right hand side. Swearing to myself (probably out loud too) as I got up a pain shot through my right hamstring and I had that split second thought of “bugger, hamstring has gone”. Fortunately it was just cramp, so I lay down and stretched it out for a bit, looking behind thinking “how much gap do I have on 4th place?!”. Ironic to fall at the foot of the most difficult section but that is what the mind does, when you start thinking about falling invariably you will fall. I remember similar altercations with trees when I have been snowboarding…
Anyway I got up, dusted myself down and gradually picked up the pace for the last mile or so to the finish. I had held on to 3rd place very comfortably in the end to finish in 4hrs 17mins, six minutes behind Dave and a further three behind winner Piotr. I was very pleased with that, especially given the time I had lost on that second lap. A brilliant route and really enjoyable race, I was very happy with my performance and even more so with the prize of a £30 Kong running voucher- one of my favourite shops in Keswick so a welcome bonus!
That night we did an Ennerdale Bridge “pub crawl”, aka 2 pints! But quality ones at that. The next day Becky, Jesse and I marshalled on the 10k and 25k races over at Bowness Knott, then had a leisurely walk around the lake in glorious sunshine to back mark. All in all an absolutely cracking weekend, can’t recommend the race highly enough and one in which I will be persuading our club to attend en-mass next year.