A short double-header saw a Woodbank Parkrun on Saturday and the Lamb's Longer Leg fell race from just above Hayfield on Sunday. This was the first race in the Hayfield Championship. At 5k and with 290m of ascent, it qualifies as an 'AS' in the FRA calendar (categorised 'short' with the highest ascent per mile).
I parked my bicycle at the Lamb Inn for registration and went across to the kindly official sitting at the outdoor table to give my name (the race was pre-entry only). Before I could utter a word she gave me my number. Magic, I thought. I've hardly done any fell races and they know me already?
Andy Butler and Barny Crawshaw were two runners I recognised among 82 who were also ready to take on the frozen ground and icy wind. This was Barny's first race last year and he finished close to the back. Better things were expected this time after a year's racing.
A half-mile jog down the main road brought us to the uphill track and start of the race. Although the jellification of my legs had subsided after the hour-long uphill cycle ride there culminating in the slog up from Hayfield, I was probably still a little depleted. We were sent on our way uphill, to begin the steeply up-and-down theme for the duration. Barny soon overtook me as I began to burn up with the effort; perhaps I should have removed one of my cycling tops before starting. The icy wind on the tops provided welcome relief as it chilled the sweat.
We ran, climbed, hauled our way up and down the fells, often sliding on the frozen ground while following the little marker flags or other runners in front. Marshals gave advice, directions and enthusiastic encouragement at every turn, while photographers and videoers captured the proceedings. I was getting overtaken most of the time, but on the final tussocky climb I caught and overtook Barny. My 'lead' didn't last for long. Shortly after we'd begun the final long descent to the pub, he overtook me again. I was red-lining and had nothing left with which to respond as I watched him (along with others) slowly pull away into the distance to smash last year's time with a 39:22 finish. Superb effort Barny. I hauled in a little later in 39:50 to earn me almost a bottom quarter finish. Smashing. Compare that with the 23:10 from the previous day's 5k and you get an idea for the influence of ascent on speed.
Now if I drive there next time I might knock a few seconds off that time, but I don't think it will be anywhere near as satisfying. The slog up there via New Mills and Hayfield, the fell race, the roast beef dinner in the Lamb Inn afterwards (superb) and the downhill blast back home via Buxworth made for a worthwhile outing, with still enough time left in the day to catch up with all the weeekend chores.
Some pictures were taken by Mark Fermer, while Helen Spiegl went seriously professional and plentiful with her offerings.
Richard Seipp put together a very good video. Unfortunately I was not sufficiently elite to warrant an appearance; he probably got cold and went home ;-)