Last Saturday was filled with my first 5k Woodbank Parkrun since last November (finish photo by 'Adythomas'), followed by a pleasant 11-miler from Walker Barn (to be more precise, the top of Bull Hill Lane on the outskirts of Rainow) to show a friend the last couple of sections of the Bullock Smithy Hike. That was completed in 2 hours with a few walking breaks and a couple of visits to the shops near home. Not bad considering we didn't push the pace.
That brings us nicely to yesterday evening, when I did my first Shining Tor Fell Race. It starts from the Errwood Reservoir in the Goyt Valley, on the other side from registration in the sailing clubhouse. There was an impressive turnout. As we waited for the start we fidgeted madly due to the midges, which made our skin itch and burn and left big red blotches after they had taken their fill. Still, it wasn't all bad. We had swarms of bigger flies in our hair to take our minds off the skin irritation.
After a short delay due to late arrivals we were off along the road. We heard distant applause to our left. I looked down to see a couple of people in a small boat on the water.
I thought the start was a little slow but I soon realised why when we turned right and began the climb. Then followed the typical fell race scenario - trying not to walk while not being so enthusiastic that you HAVE to walk. It worked for me this time. The jog was maintained, while marginal respites were enjoyed as we ran in line along single paths with no opportunities to overtake.
We climbed to the top of Shining Tor and I saw views (in the opposite direction) I hadn't seen since the Bullock Smithy Hike changed its route in 2000. The air was calm, mild and damp to just provide enough cooling. Giving my all was feeling good as we went into our first descent across the bouncy, cushioned moor.
The marshals did a sterling job directing us at all the turns, while the occasional red and white tape wafting gently in the breeze confirmed that we were on route. I just followed the people in front. After the initial climb our route undulated up and down until the final descent. The downhills were a joy but on the first gentle descent when it became rocky I found myself to be a tad lacking when heavy breathing closing from behind culminated in one or two others overtaking me. However, later on when the descents became steeper and more technical and my legs were still feeling strong, it became my turn to do the overtaking.
Before the final descent, the cloud was rolling in like smoke wafting up the valleys to our ridge and it started to drizzle. It was good. It cleared the atmosphere of our tormentors and it helped to cool runners' bodies as they were pushed to their limits.
The final descent to the foot of Errwood Reservoir dam brought the sting in the tail - the right turn and climb up the road to the finish. I had held my own and not got overtaken on the descent despite the foot slaps that had gradually closed from behind as I chased and eventually overtook my own target. The smooth uphill was runnable so I ran, but it wasn't enough. I became the target and finally got overtaken by the foot slapper but just held off one more before the line. (I nearly got caught when I paused to capture a sharp image of the finish. The result was, unbelievably, pants.)
After crossing the line I turned around to photograph my chasers and tormenters, but before I managed to do that I tripped over a boulder and sat down rather forcefully on a bed of thistles. I relaxed and took the picture. Running shorts afforded little protection. I was picking thistle barbs out of my a*se for the rest of the evening.
The official time was 1:00:23, which got me 91st out of 182 finishers; pretty chuffed with that. Without the conga lines I might have even been able to knock 24 seconds off ;-) The heart rate was only hitting the red this time instead of the scarlet. I felt strong to the end. Fitness seems to be returning just in time for the Lakeland 100.
You will have gathered I took pictures. You are lucky because this was an eyeballs-out fell race, so you will excuse blurredness, skew-whiffness and any other photographic defect. Note the tormented restlessness before the start.