Tuesday, 27 June 2017

Kinder Trog Fell Race 2017

The day dawned claggy. That should have put me on high(er) navigational alert. I knew a decent chunk of the race route. Fairly confident I'd say, but totally in the knowledge of where I'd get the map out. Well, me, along with many others took some interesting route choices in the clag. This was going to be one tough fell race for me - distance, ascent and the shear challenge was all a bit daunting.

This is a race with a description of 25.7km and 1062m ascent. I did a bit more than that!

After arriving early to register I walked the final kilometre through the village just so I wouldn't disgrace myself by getting lost on the last bit. Back at the scout hut things were getting busy, numbers being pinned on and Glossopdale Harrier club mates arriving.

10.55am and we're all gathered on the road ready to go. I was chatting with Cheryl when suddenly we were off...no shout of 'Go' or any sort of race organiser briefing that we heard, but then we were near the back of the pack.

The first 9km or so is pretty much all up hill. And my lungs knew it. I set off with the aim of completing the race, not pushing and punishing myself by blowing up on that first section so I eased to a walk fairly soon on the climb up to Lantern Pike. It was humid and the threat of rain and clag on the tops loomed.

With plenty of people around me we made our way over the fields and down to Monks Road. What a super boost to see Andrea and Brae on the track, then Julien, John H, Alasdair and Dave H on the road. It is brilliant to see club mates out supporting, thank you.

Onwards, I grabbed a quick glass of water from the marshals then crossed the roads. The marshals were brilliant and actually stopping cars for us. The next section was a combination of run/walk as we climbed towards Kinder past Burnt Hill.

Near Burnt Hill, thanks to Frank Golden Photography for the pic

The dreaded stone flags appeared soon enough. I got my head down and thought positive thoughts! Cheryl had pulled away long since but I had caught a glimpse of her ahead when I cross the main road. Too far to catch now, and that put me as last Glossopdale Harrier but still smiling because I was out doing it.

I ate a little, kept drinking and got myself up the steep stone steps onto the Kinder Edge path. At some point between the flags and here I'd put on my waterproof. The rain was now falling heavier, not just misty moisture and it was being blasted into my right ear so I reluctantly put my hood up, knowing I'd be heating up quickly.

I'm not a fan of the running around the edge path - rocks sticking up all over the place mean you have to pay constant attention to where you put your feet. This means I only tend to go that way when it's clear as the views are amazing. Not today - visibility at perhaps 50m at best shrouded us in rain and clag. I fell into a rhythm and saw three other runners not too far ahead. Knowing this section can seem like a long way in the clag (Kinder Downfall race in 2012 was totally clagged in too) I pushed myself on to catch them.

From not too far after the steep climb up, to somewhere above Cluther Rocks we were in a train of four. Hardly a word spoken, each in our own world. There was one chap who was mostly at the front and he was setting a nice pace. I could have gone faster, but this was good for me, steady, rhythmical and sensible given we weren't halfway. I loved the mesmerisation of our footfall and the pace that slowed to a walk on the slight inclines and rockier sections. Then picked up to a run naturally.

At some point after Red Brook and before the trig there's a section of rocks you need to climb up through and the guy at the front beared off to the right around them. I reminded myself I was running my own race so kept on the path I knew to be right. The other three runners dropped away in the clag. Cairns appeared like ghosts out of the mist. I knew I'd passed the trig point but couldn't see it. Then the triangle path of paving appeared and I was sure, totally sure, I needed to go right. That was my mistake.

So on the wrong route I trundled along. At some point I knew I was wrong. There'd been runners appearing from various directions already then all of a sudden Cheryl appeared coming towards me!! A short discussion later and we were continuing on my 'I know this is wrong but think I can put it right' route choice. She decided to be 'misplaced' with me rather than strangers. I also thought it better to drop out of the clag and put it right, rather than retrace steps and not really know where to go, wasting time. Without finding the trig point and then following a bearing you could wander up there for a while.

Sure enough we popped out on the Kinder Downfall route after negotiating the steep steps of Kinderlow End. We resigned ourselves to the climb back up to Edale Cross to pass the check point. The amusing clag-lost runners were all around - some looked like they were wandering aimlessly over towards Oaken Clough and I heard later some had gone down Jacobs Ladder.

The next section was a down and steep up to pick up the bridleway past Mount Famine. We kept a good pace and soon enough were at the top. The usually very boggy path was nicely dry and before we knew it we were on the descent to the next road crossing.

Having a good natter on the bridleway heading to the road crossing to Peep O Day
Thanks to Frank Golden Photography for the pic
Another friendly face (Carl) appeared and boosted our moral. The road crossing was negotiated safely then the climb up to Big Stone. It teases you, sitting up on the horizon, seemingly getting closer but feeling like it isn't doing so. We got there in the end, along with cramp hitting Cheryl's calves. Finally the last climb was done and we were at about 3hrs 30. Could we finish under 4 hours? We had a vague idea how far it was but pace was slowed a little as we did map reading necessary to keep us on the right paths. Plus cramp stops, then on the final descent though the trees to Phoside my right knee started to be really painful with each foot fall. Ouch! Nothing for it but to carry on. Forward progress will get you there in the end, however steady.

Across the two fields and the really muddy bit you couldn't avoid - right up to my calves! Down the slippy concreted track and the final road crossing to a massive cheer from Des (cheers for that, made us smile!!). Through the car park with about 2 minutes to go until our self-imposed (well mine I think) deadline....across the bridge....into the field!! yey! Once Cheryl realised that was actually the finish she stopped insisting that I left her to push on....we crossed the line together, hand in hand and smiling - 3 hours 59 minutes and 42 seconds. And we weren't last. Not that it really would have mattered because we finished.

The finish line still had a good few runners and supporters there who cheered us in - that was wonderful. Thank you all.

Thank you to the race organiser, marshals, tea and sandwich providers, photographers, those who supported and anyone else involved. It's a really tough race, challenging conditions and one which I will definitely be doing again. (at least I should get a pb if I don't get misplaced again :) )

A big thank you goes to Cheryl for the delightful company - I'll get misplaced with you in any race :)

My record of the route is 26.8km and 1181m of ascent....so a bit over on both counts. I am really pleased with my time and will be back.

For your amusement - the route choices taken by the racers!

As a final note (rant), my experience was a little damped by a few other runners. Please, if you are going to do a race where it is advertised with these abbreviations  - "ER, PM, LK, NS" - read the descriptions and do your homework. NS means you need Navigational Skills. Yes the route was "PM - partially marked" but NS means you might actually need to get your map and compass out, or recce the route beforehand. Don't constantly ask those around you which way to go, is this the right stile, do we go down here etc...and certainly don't harangue the marshal to physically show you the route when their job is to take numbers of other runners approaching to ensure the safety of all. It was tiresome to hear your tirade. It is your responsibility to learn the skills required for the race you have entered. Rant over!

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