Last race of the year...

Last weekend I was in the Lakes for my last event of 2011, and one I'd been looking forward to since missing it last year... the Tour de Helvellyn, organised my Joe Faulkner and Nav4.

The race started on a cold but clear morning in Askham, with start times between 7 and 9am. Milling around before the start I spotted a few very fast-looking people, including Kim Collison, Bruce Duncan, and last year's winner Alex Pilkington. I started at 8:45, with about four or five people still in the hall, including all the above. The weather was good at the start and the ground was icy, but as we climbed the first hill I felt like I was moving well (first long run since slicing my knee a few weeks ago) and passed a fair few people.

The route was a lollipop shape, with a long run out, loop up and around the Helvellyn range, then the same run back in. By the time I hit the loop section I was going well and had not yet been passed by anyone from behind. I had just about caught up with Dave Spence from Team Accelerate, but as we hit the deep snow on the way up towards the ski centre, it was hard to pass anyone without putting in a huge effort. The loop around Helvellyn was pretty snowy most of the way round, and after what felt like a fast first third I now felt a bit carp, and dangled 50m or so behind Dave for a long time! During the climb Kim Collison came past looking like there wasn't any snow on the ground, he was flying. At the far end of the course I was really cold, because I hadn't stopped when I should have I now needed to take a while to put gloves on and eat, and I felt lost a bit of time here.

Now on the way back, I slowed down for a while (losing sight of Dave) but then got going again. Along the forest tracks I put maximum effort in, only to find I had taken a wrong turn and dropped too low, and having to climb again! Back onto the lollipop "handle" there were just two checkpoints to go, I felt the end was in sight, the snow had relented and I was running ok again. I passed a few more people who had started before me, and eventually ran into the finish in 7 hrs 24, which turned out to be 8th place. Kim won in 6:05.

I was pretty disappointed in this, I hoped that I might manage top 5 and around 6:30 - 7 hours. Dave finished in 7:35, and Bruce and Alex came in after me, but having started before me I was beaten by Bruce. Despite this it was a fantastic race, and one I will certainly be back to improve at!

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