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The Fellsman 2019 – updated 5 May

I cowered at home in Cheshire all day as the rain lashed sideways from dawn till dusk.  When I had to take the dog out for a walk it was horrible.  I spared the odd thought for the poor souls out trying to run the Fellsman, and wondered whether the race would happen at all.  I don’t know why I was worrying.  In Karen’s words: “Fellsman was great if a bit wet.”

Karen’s blog is up here, and I’ve copied her write-up below as well.  Nick was unwell and unable to attend, so there’ll be no photos from him this time.  Not many from Karen either as it was so wet she wasn’t going to risk her phone or camera.

The official results are now up on the Fellsman website, so I’ve updated the Runfurther leaderboard to use the official times.  As expected the only difference, as far as I can see, is that runners who had to wait to be grouped have gained a few Runfurther points.

Very fast times from Stuart Walker and Rory Harris there, both under 11 1/2 hours.  For me, the standout achievement was Sabrina Verjee’s time of 12:23, 7th overall.

Sabrina appears to be running away with the Runfurther title this year, with three race wins.  One more (a Short one) and she’ll have the maximum 4000 points and will be unbeatable.  Rory Harris has only dropped 13 points (beaten by Stuart Walker in the Fellsman), and also looks to be in such a strong position I’d be surprised if anyone can catch him now.  It’s unusual to be able to say that this early in the series.

Astley and Tyldesley Road Runners are way out in front in the team competition, but they can be caught.

Only three runners have run all four races so far, so they are the only ones who could complete a Grand Slam:  Simon Ford, Kevin Smith and Steven Jones: good luck to all three!

And if anyone knows Jackie Scarf, Jake Holmes or Andy Berry, please get them to join Runfurther: they’ve already got three counters each.

Karen’s race report

Race 4 in the Runfurther ultra series and the 57th running of the Fellsman. For me it would be my 7th time on the course. Pretty sure many of us will be asking at various points “Why have I signed up for this again?” and will then promptly forget the tough bits, decide we loved it and sign up again.
This years course was to be altered slightly as one landowner decided we must not cross even the southern boundary of Fleet Moss. It would involved several miles on tarmac, including a steep downhill, before the extra 300m+ climb back up to Middle Tongue CP. It can’t be helped but it was not going to be popular with many and I wasn’t looking forward to it.
Friday evening did not start well. After a morning of climbing we raced home for a quick shower, food and to grab our bags. The journey across was uneventful and the weather damp but not awful. Arriving before 4pm and with plenty of time to put up flags, banners etc before runners started to register Bob realised he had left vital clothing at home.

Thanks to all the Runfurther sponsors

I leapt out with all the Runfurther gear and he set off on the return drive home and back to Threshfield. At least it was a possible and not a totally insane drive. Once the flags were up I pottered about the very warm school drying out and helping to set up tables etc where I could. Nick sadly was having a worse evening. I didn’t know it then as Threshfield has no mobile phone signal but he was suffering vertigo attacks severe enough to force him back to home. A real shame as he had hoped to complete a Grand Slam this year.

By 8pm all my jobs were done, I had registered and been kit checked and a meal had been cooked and eaten. I returned to the hall to find friends and to encourage people to collect their spit prizes from Mountain Fuel, Ultimate Direction, Injinji and Tent Meals. I had taken extra mint cake for runners and also the teams in the sweep mini buses. Before 10pm we were in bed and thinking of those sleeping on the sports hall floor – not the best preparation for a race in my experience.

Ooo Spot Prizes

The forecast was not great but despite the fad of naming storms and hyping them up a bit we were not due relentless heavy rain, nor gales, nor bitter cold. I had already opted for tights as I can’t be bothered changing to longs at dusk grouping. I decided a heavy weight reliable waterproof was worth the extra 150g as I would likely have it on most of the time. I switched my shoes for some with just a little more grip but hoped some of the bogs would still be a bit drier than usual after weeks of little rain.

Typical- sunshine by Sunday lunch time

A bus to Ingleton at 6.15am meant an early start. Yep it was damp and a little cool but not freezing. The hall was hot as usual but the time passed quickly, especially once Julian and I decided to get together an ‘oldies team’ for the V50 team trophy. We needed 6 so Julian, me, Albert, Mark D, David T and John T were duly signed up. True I had to write several of these in myself… the perils of ageing and glasses…. but all promised to aim to complete.
There were 70 odd dns runners. I guess there will always be injury, illness etc but I am sure the forecast didn’t help. It was dry as we were herded out onto the sports field and had our tally clipped in the first of many boxes. Shortly after 8.30am were were off – in at least 3 different directions as runners opted for their favourite lines out onto the road before Ingleborough. Knowing not to blast off too fast I soon settled into a comfortable pace and chatted with Julian. The lead runners were well out of sight as we clambered over the rocks and onto the summit plateau. It was a bit wild for the marshalls but we didn’t hang around long enough to worry.  One peak down and just another 11 lumps to go.
I hate the rocky steps that are the usual descent. I always fear a slip on greasy rocks, a trip on the upstanding bits and the impatience of faster male descenders behind me. I spotted a runner dropping left to the grassy trod I had heard about and decided to try it. The ground was steep, the grass was wet and there were a few rocks but I did prefer it and for me it was faster. On on now and in search of David and Laura from Sportsunday photos. I never stop at the first CP  and was soon heading up Whernside where David and Laura were lying in wait with cameras.

Three Muskateers- Barney, Mike and Harry?

They earn their money on days like that. I know I am not super fast but I cannot help being competitive.

Heavy weight cag on all day but not really grim

Sabrina was likely to win the women’s race I thought but I didn’t really know who else would be up there. I did know I was 4th and I spotted Maria just ahead. Hmm, could I get 3rd? Early to be worrying about such things but I am sure it spurred me on up the rising grassy rake and then the summit ridge. It was now certainly raining and quite windy. The marshalls on the summit looked cold despite being huddled by the wall.

Jane and Adrienne on Whernside- Thanks

Once off the rocky bits and through the gates I love that downhill ridge . Just the right angle and nice grass. The out and back to the summit means you can see who is ahead and who is behind. I just spotted Sabs as I joined the ridge, she was already coming down. The temporary stile over the ridge wall gave a few runners a heart stopping moment as it shifted but the real shock was the head height barbed wire at the wall gap. I am short enough to run under it but one young man sat at the Kingsdale CP had not been so lucky. I grabbed a piece of flapjack and overtook some more runners by not hanging around. Well its true… 3 mins at every CP would add well over an hour to your time on this race. I slowed on the steep section of Gragareth but kept ahead of most in the big group behind me. Ros had suggested the CP and tents might be huddled by the wall but instead they were correctly positioned at the trig point.

Ros and others at Gragareth CP. That sky!

Again the out and back allowed me to check on the progress of others.  Despite the dry spring and despite it being a ridge with big drops on both sides the path to Great Coum was wet although I actually enjoyed running this section. Simon Ford was going well and Albert was still just a bit ahead. The drop to Flinters Gill started on pleasant grass but was soon the usual bog fest. Julian had reminded me that there is an alternative to some of the rocky bridleway that drops to Dent. I decided to try it and he is right. You still have to join the main path eventually but it is better. I also for the first time ever took the ‘short cut’ that drops you onto the camping field and the CP. Phew almost 1/3 completed in miles at least.

Winner Stuart Walker at Dent

A big group of us swarmed around the food tent shouting our requests of warm cheese and onion rolls, tea and more. The melon was lovely. I tried not to loiter and set off on the lane eating and drinking. Gary caught me up here and although I then didn’t see him for a while we were later grouped together. For now I concentrated on chasing down two blokes running in shorts – not some wierd fettish, just me hoping to pick off the next runners. They stopped to put on over trousers as the next blast of hail and rain went through. As the bridleway climbed over the end of Whernside I was aware of two first timers hoping to gain a reasonable line by sticking with me.  That’s fine. Simon F was just ahead battling along with his poles. I maintained but could not close the gap on him. Still another CP ticked off and 25 miles done. The felled section of forest added a few obstacles to duck under and climb over, plus the forestry vehicles have almost destroyed the boardwalk section. The beck off to the right was full to bursting and the path very wet. The turkey may have gone but the the farm has a very impressive group of cockerels and some rather fierce geese.I made it through unscathed and jogged down the road to the Stonehouse CP.  It’s nice knowing what to expect at CPs and I quite like the pasta. That plus a cup of tea. I topped up my water bottle but had not really used much in the cold damp weather. Albert had left shortly after I arrived so I set off with a piece of cake in each hand. You can never have too much cake and this one had cherries in it. I had hoped Sportsunday might be on Artengill Beck but not this year. A shame as I had not carried my phone or camera in the rain and as we flogged up under the viaduct and beautiful steam train went across. The rain had stopped for a bit now although apparently down in Stonehouse a gale nearly took the tent away. Great Knoutberry is another little dink out and back so yes another chance to see who is around. Barney, Mile and friend came steaming down the hillside with Mike moaning that he was knackered. There was lots of congratulations from both the climbers and descenders. I could see Albert and caught him at the CP. He didn’t appear to be loving the day and I felt a bit bad running off back to the track and on towards Redshaw. Almost at the track I met a huge group on their way up and there were two women. Oh bugger, I need to run harder.

Redshaw

Somewhere around here you pass the half way mark and bouyed on my the thought of soup and hotdogs the boggy land doesn’t seem so bad. At least its either flat or downhill for a bit. Two years ago I marshalled at Redshaw but today I quickly grabbed soup and the hot dog before setting off with the remains of the soup and a banana.  Not stopping and being on my own saved another 3-5 minutes. The 3 young men made the difficult decision to split here. Mike was wasted and could no longer keep up. My novice Fellsman runners were asking me about the next section- you almost swim after Redshaw on the way to Snaizeholme and I think they feared there might be miles of it. I was able to reassure them that it would soon improve and in fact was a big track to below Dodd Fell. Barney and mate came charging past and disappeared into the distance. The CP on the summit was easy to spot but in my haste to head off to the Fleet Moss CP I made a nav error, missed the wall gap and went the long way round. Sadly I took Albert and Mike with me. Somewhere here I also went over on my ankle and it got progressively stiffer as the evening wore on. I contemplated the direct line with the wall climb that Oz showed me but decided to stay legal.  There was a new fence along the road to the CP but luckily there was a safe place to climb over. It was now tipping it down with rain but almost 38 miles were done. It was cold in the draughty tent so I downed two cups of tea and rice pudd, dragged on my over trousers and set off on the dreaded road.
I had lost time on my Dodd Fell detour allowing runners to catch me and then to see the next group as I ran down past the chevrons. The only thing to do was make the most of the tarmac and cover as many miles as fast as I could.

That b***** road

The ‘shorts and over trousers’ men had caught me and I now used them to drag me along. Luckily the rain stopped or lessened off and I was able to vent my sweaty layers. They were not enjoying the road either and I was closing in. I thought back to my birthday treat on the Dales Way a few years ago and how roasting this valley had been then.  I made good time and at Deepdale bridge was pleased to gain the grassy field paths to Yockenthwaite. I could see Simon plus poles up ahead and this encouraged me. He was also a good marker as we flogged up the track, path and trod to Middle Tongue. It went on a bit but at least the nav was straight forward.  The ‘shorts’ men had stopped and the guy ahead of me seemed to loiter at the CP. Ah yes, he didn’t know the way and the next section is peat hags, bog and not much in the way of a path. I was happy to lead us to just below the kink in the wall where you can climb the fence and then contour to the next wall and a better path. He was very grateful. The guy at Hells Gap was huddled in his Land Rover and the whole think was rocking in the wind. Not a place to loiter. Off we sped down the nasty track to Cray. I used the verges when I could to save my feet but was relieved to reach the tent. I knew we would be grouped here and wanted to make sure I was set up for the dark and well fed. Eating was an effort and I was gagging on the last mouthfuls. I put my prism on knowing it could be cold now and especially if the rain returned. For the moment we were treated to a beautiful rainbow.

It wasn’t all rain

The tent was pretty full but 3 soon shuffled off the the Body Bus and retired their way back to Threshfield. I have done the route 6 times and should know the way but was keen to be in a group with at least one other person who could navigate and also who would be good company. Barlick Gary fitted the bill. We ended up as a group of 7 which is the biggest I have ever had but in fact it worked well. We were fairly well matched and all had good and not so good moments. Gary showed me at least one line I had not done before and with our joint nav or me confirming what he thought we did well. The climb up Buckden Pike was stiff but the weather seemed to be improving and the sun was not yet setting. I like the ridge run and we managed to bogs after the Cross OK. I was pleased that we all agreed to keep torches off for as long as possible. We needed them as we approached Top Mere but it helped prevent the group of 4 behind catching us. Only one big lump left now and the miles were ticking by.  The run to Park Rash was uneventful and we were moving quite well but the run had depleted my reserves and by now I was struggling to eat solids. I would have killed for chocolate milk or custard but hey ho. I managed a MF jelly and some mint cake but struggled on the steepest section of Great Whernside. Luckily at the stile to the rising traverse the easing gradient let me recover and feel better again. We were soon able to see the beacon and then the little CP tent. Only 10 miles left now and now real climbs at all. The rain had gone. I knew the way along the fence, down with the fence as a handrail and all the way to the gate but I could not in my head picture the bit to Capplestone Gate. The group continued to work well with a fair bit of jogging and power walking when we couldn’t do more. The deepest bogs were not as bad as they can be. The guys sent me ahead each time although as I weighed less it was no guarantee of solidity and if I sunk in I would disappear fastest.  No worries and we were soon past the CP and on the track and grassy paths. We made a slight detour into a wall corner but it only cost 10metres. The beacons across the more open grass kept us to the right path easily and soon the walled lane was there. I knew Yarnbury was close and I almost got second wind. We de grouped here. I thought I might grind to a halt but as two sped off I thanked Gary, agreed we could easily get back in under 16 hours and tucked in trying hard down the lane. My head torch was getting very dim but it was a blessing as I couldn’t really see the lane stretching off into the distance. Grassington passed very quickly and it was downhill all the way to the river. I checked my watch- over 15 mins left to get up to the school. I jogged most of it and was pretty pleased with 15 hrs 47. I dreaded to think how fast Sabrina had been and what it would do to my Runfurther points but I had done my best and was 3rd Woman. Gary was over joyed at a 50 min PB. He had been good company.
We sat in the hallway a while just recovering before people drifted off for showers, the sports hall floor, a shuttle to a van in the car park or in my case a stagger to the kitchen for tea and then our van.
It was a shame to find Bob already in bed. It hadn’t been his day. Little Stu Walker was 1st in a brilliant 11hrs 18 and then Rory in 11.27. David Chetta was 4th in 12.03, Phil W in 12.21, Simon Bourne 10th in 12.53 and first V60. Sabs was 7th in 12.23 awesome.

A good nights sleep and a Fellsman breakfast set us up for the prize giving where we managed the Vets Team Prize. Old but not Dead Yet…. Julian, Karen, Albert, John, Mark and David. Fab. My ankle seems to have lost its bone and gained a rather impressive swelling.

I think I just ignored it during the race but walking on Sunday was dodgy as it stiffened up. Climbing on it today wasn’t great but hopefully it will mend fast. None of the photos are mine so thanks to Sportsunday and Fellsman facebook. The big question is can I manage the next 3 Fellsman so that my 10th coincides with their 60th and my 60th birthday?

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