Clough Head Race… under the watchful eye of Beautiful Blencathra from across the valley.
They say that No 1: Stybarrow Dodd is the toughest… I'm not so sure?
The forecast for the race showed signs of wintery conditions, a different picture from Stybarrow’s blue sky day. Snow was forecast, then it wasn't, but the hard frosty frozen ground didn’t disappoint… and was just as the weather forecasts had predicted.
Microspikes / no microspikes, studs / no studs, tech tee / long sleeved layer / perhaps wind top too…? I haven’t started a race with so many indecisions going through my head. I’d be done in an hour or so, ‘just go and run’ I kept saying to myself. No studs, no microspikes, and finally no windtop. I looked around as I had clad my upper body with layers, no-one was wearing layers, come on, loose the wind top - so I did.
A little run around checking for icy patches for the concrete start and finish, a warm up with a purpose, yep, indeed there were sheets of ice for the finish - all noted! A word of warning from Race Director, Paul, too on his little (but absolutely essential) safety chat at the start - ‘watch out, ice about’.
What an amazing start to this race, weaving through the quarry and its history of machinery, fascinating and you felt absorbed by its history too, before heading out onto the open fell. A gentle ascent warmed the legs nicely, then the towering steepness of Clough Head hit you, at the same time as the wind battered the runners from the south west as we headed round the side of Threlkeld Knotts.
The wind was biting my neck, i’ve never felt that before, and i really wasn't happy, so on the hoof the pack came off & hooked to my arm, (I lost a couple of places), wind top whipped out, still powering up hill, top on, zip started, race vest back on, zip completed to half way, and back on it. I sneaked 2 cubes of my magic friend - VOOM Pocket Rocket, just for a little kick for that last little push up, blooming heck it was steep - Yes, done it, onto the top… nearly.
Not sure how I managed to take a couple of pictures too, the views were extraordinary across to Skiddaw and Bassenthwiate with bizarre cloud formations. The rest is enjoyable, runnable exaggerated incline to the summit, get running legs, you know you love uphill! I knew i was near the back of the field, I’d been watching runner after runner head over the skyline, it was a beautiful sight, I didn't mind my position near the back, I had my own reasons for not being on top form, but I was there, with familiar faces, near home, racing, I’d achieved, and I was having the best type 1 fun - honestly!
Amazing marshalls stood in that biting wind on the summit, the wind I couldn't take lower down the fell - how do they do it? Guessing that’s harder than competing, standing on a summit for a couple of hours, whilst smiling at all of us. Thanks Joe Faulkner for the ‘high five’ on White Pike Summit too, made me smile & set me off for the treacherous descent.
My goodness, I love descending, but this was a slippery, icy, slightly snow dusted grassy surface and mossy patches hiding the little rocks… I slipped, just a tiny bit, and lost control of my feet. That was it for me, I didn't mind who overtook me, I had lost my nerve - suddenly. My cautious head took over, the mother, the daughter, the outdoor instructor, oh no, I couldn't fall, what if… what if…
But, the Roach Road was in sight, the gradient lessened, an old friend, David, came alongside, I ran down chatting, and I was back once more, yippee, bogs tussocks & mossy rocks, hidden ice all hidden in between broke beneath your feet in the bogs as I tried to be clever picking the widest line (not always that clever!), all became fun again, just for those last 10 minutes, I passed a few folk as now switched on and flying down.
Sheet ice was all over the quarry tracks entering the finishing flagged section, learn to laugh at yourself here and dance along the little piles of gravel dumped here and there, there was no time to be anxious.
I found myself running alongside a very smiley fellow female runner as we headed over the railway track, she was inching past me as we flew through the quarry, the sprint was on to the finish, come….. on…. legs…. I could hear her having a little laugh, as did I, literally shoulder to shoulder, cat and mouse, WATCH OUT, the icy patches near the finish I heard myself saying. I couldn't keep it up, she had me, and I let it go.
Moral of the story, sneak in the last pieces of VOOM bar before descending, for the energy boost, adrenaline rush when the going gets tough and final finishing straight burst - this I do not do! Remember VOOM Note to self next time - KONG WINTER SERIES NO 3 - SOB
End on a high, smile all the way to the finish line, after all this is what we choose to do for fun on a Wintery Saturday morning!