The Fellsman

On Saturday at 7am I was back in a familiar place: Trying to get a bit more sleep on a coach from Threshfield to Ingleton. I didn't sleep but eventually we arrived at the start of the Fellsman, ready for another year's 62 mile slog across the Dales.

The start field (borrowed from Guy Mawson)
At precisely a couple of minutes past 9 we were off, heading out through the village (there were even a few spectators!) and onto the ascent of Inglebrough. It soon became apparent that Kim Collinson had a plan - he went out fast and soon had a decent lead on a group of four behind, made up of Konrad Rawlik, Adam Perry and Ian Phillips who I had teamed up with for this event, and myself. We ran at a good pace, I think probably slightly quicker than I would've done had Kim not been out in front. It didn't quite feel comfortable and couldn't seem to get into a good rhythm, it didn't help that I kept tripping myself up on the rocks!

After a very slippery descent of Inglebrough we dropped to Hill Inn, through the feed station for the 3 Peaks Race which would be passing a bit later, then climbed Whernside, still together. As we descended into Kingsdale I took the first of ten (yes, I counted!) "sit-down breaks", meaning the others got away. I could see Ian and Konrad pass through the checkpoint below me and pushed on to catch up with Adam. After the checkpoint the four of us were back together and climbed Gragareth, which is a horrible steep little hill (as this classic photo from a few years ago shows)

The run over to Great Coum was windy and a quick blast of snow was a slight reminder of last year, but it soon passed. Somewhere around here Adam and Ian decided to up the pace slightly and set off after Kim. Unfortunately this coincided with needing another quick stop so they got away. Konrad caught me up and at this point I would like to apologise to him for stopping a bit too close to the path!

So, off we went towards Dent... It was warm as I ran up the road and into the first big checkpoint of the race. I quickly had my tally clipped, I didn't eat anything but topped up my water and took a biscuit with me. It was good to see Matt and Rose spectating here! Konrad and I ran out at the same time and ran up the road together. We talked a little bit but I think we were both working pretty hard! Once we'd completed the couple of kms on the road we joined the track to climb to Blea Moor. The pace eased a little which was nice but after a while I decided I could be going quicker, I looked at the map and realised that if I went faster now I could spend the rest of the race navigating on my own... A scary and potentially disastrous proposition, but I decided it needed to be done and pushed on a little as we climbed.

After Blea Moor I dropped down, through the plantation which had been partly cut down since last year, along the road and into the Stonehouse checkpoint. Another quick refill of juice and I was off, taking a cheese sandwich with me this time. I had been struggling again with eating but hoped I could manage something on the climb up towards Great Knoutberry. I forced myself to run nearly all of the gentle climb under the impressive aquaduct and up to the bottom of the out-and-back section on the hill itself. As I set off up the climb I saw Ian, Adam and Kim together come flying down towards me and off over the moor. We shouted encouragement (at least I think it was) as we passed and I noted the time to work out how far ahead of me they were. The climb up was tough and boggy but relatively short and I was soon slipping my way back down. I had a couple of spectacular slides on my bum down the hill! On my way down I saw Konrad and Alex Pilkington on their way up, and a group of 4 or 5 people just before I crossed the track, including Chris, another member of our team.

From Knoutberry thoughts soon turned to the crossing of Fleet Moss. Before the event I had hoped to stick with Adam and Ian at least until this point since we had recced it together and had a good line. I knew I would lose time on my own. At the bottom of Great Knoutberry the gap was about 25 minutes and I realised that unless one of them had a disaster all I could do now was probably hold onto 4th. With Snaizeholme and Dodd Fell dealt with I reached Fleet Moss checkpoint. Here a spectator told me the gap was the same as it had been at Dent. I was quite pleased about this, though disappointed at the size of the gap...

Fleet Moss on a good day...

I followed our recced line as best as I could, albeit with a few more navigation stops and a lot more zig-zagging. I tried to run hard as I suspected Konrad probably knew a decent line so would be catching. Running hard did unfortunately mean more toilet stops, but eventually I found the Middle Tongue checkpoint and headed onwards on my vaguely-remembered line to Hell Gap. I have never been so pleased to recognise a bit of fence! After a bit more bog trotting and plenty more slips, trips and falls I was at the Cray checkpoint at 45 miles. I retired here on my first attempt at this race, I will never forget four of us huddling around a gas lamp in the middle of the night trying to warm up!

Anyway, this time wasn't like that. Leaving Cray it was a warm and beautiful evening. I still felt pretty strong on the climbs so decided to push it up Buckden Pike, knowing there was only one climb left afterwards. It's a stiff climb up - I decided to go to the right of the stream on a more direct line. At least the climb was over pretty quickly, but when I looked back I could see Konrad was still not far away and going well - it wasn't over yet! As I ran up to the Top Mere checkpoint I saw a man I saw a runner which confused me no end - "Noooooo, Konrad has passed me... Hmm, that doesn't look like Konrad... Could I have caught Kim? No, much too tall... Who the hell is it?!" It turned out to be Dave Spence from Team Accelerate, it was great to see Dave and the encouragement helped me on the run down to Park Rash.

Top Mere photo by Dave Spence
It felt good to be through the last major checkpoint, now just one more climb up Great Whernside. It felt like another tough climb, but they all do after 50-odd miles. I gave it everything on this climb and managed to run most of it, the beautiful evening certainly helped: The sun was starting to set and the orange sky off to my right was just enough to distract me from the pain in my legs! After the checkpoint I made a little mistake with the route by heading too far right and missing the fence line, but I realised and contoured around the spur of the hill and rejoined the fence lower down. I remembered the recce line down to Capplestone Gate but I had forgotten quite how long this section was! But as it says in Richard Asquith's book, these things do EVENTUALLY come to an end, and indeed I eventually reached Yarnbury.

From Yarnbury it's a mile or two to the finish, passing through Grassington before reaching Threshfield. It's one of those sections that you ignore until you're there - too short to hold anything back for and basically no navigation needed... After escaping the stuck hole punch of the marshal at Yarnbury I was on my way, I hadn't seen Konrad on the descent so hoped I had done enough, I tried not to look back and to ignore the groans of my stomach and just run fast. It was still a fantastic evening and I could probably get under 11:30 so I felt pretty happy. When I got to Grassington I saw my friend Chris in the pub and received some more good raucous (for Grassington) encouragement, I kept running up the rise in the road and around the corner into the finish. In my eagerness to get into the school and finish I tried to go through the door before opening it and sustained my most painful injury of the day - a big swollen knee!

After a shower and a bit of food and drink a few of us headed out to the pub, after which I had a brilliant night's sleep in the van, followed by the famous Fellsman breakfast the next morning. It was as good as I remembered from last year, and I am sure it will be just as good next year!

Adam Perry won the race in the end, by a minute or two from Ian, finishing I think in around 10:35... A fantastic time and a really well run race by both Ian and Adam. After pushing the pace early on Kim came in third in about 11 hours and won the Tregoning cup for the fastest first-timer. My time was about 11:26, I'm pleased with the position but a bit disappointed to be so far behind the others. I was very pleased to win the team prize though, with myself Ian and Adam counting from "Conehead and the Barbarians" - Conehead being Jamie Lawler. The team prizes were awesome - a holdall, shoes, t-shirt and shorts, jacket and a pair of shoes... Thanks North Face! A good result for DPFR too as Nicky Spinks won the ladies prize once again, but I don't think that was ever in much doubt!

So, Fellsman done for another year. It's a true classic race and I see no reason not to go back next year and try to improve a bit more!


Popular posts from this blog

Snowdonia Trail Marathon

100km review - Scott Supertrac Ultra RC

The Kinder Killer