The Fellsman 2016

The Fellsman results are up, and you can find them on the Fellsman website. Konrad Rawlik was first, in 11:31, Simon Bourne 2nd in 12:13, and Stewart Bellamy 3rd in 12:40.  First woman was Karen Nash in 15:45, 2nd was Josie Greenhalgh in 18:04, and 3rd was Allison Skillicorn in 18:32.  The Vet 50 trophy went to Kevin Perry (13:08), Vet 60 to Chris Davies (13:39), and the new Vet 70 trophy was won by Bob Nash (27:39).  Congratulations to all of them, and to everyone else who finished.

I’ve updated the Runfurther leaderboard, and you can find that here.  Nine members have run all three races so far, and so has Justin Bramall, so if anyone out there knows him, nudge him to send a membership form in.  He’ll get a free buff if he runs another race!  First woman so far is Karen Nash, first man Chris Davies, but it’s early days yet.  Clayton-le-Moors currently lead the team competition, with Team Krypton hot on their heels.

I’ve written up a report of my own race (see below), and posted a few links to photos and other blogs.

The race was awesome – for me anyway.  One of the hardest races I’ve ever done.  Six of the seven Runfurther committee members ran, and all of us finished.  Both Bob Nash and Dick Scroop damaged their backs in falls/swamps, but both managed to finish despite this.  The weather was great, as long as you had warm clothes on, but the bogs were atrocious.  I couldn’t get my shoes off at the end, as the laces were frozen solid.

Karen’s written her blog up and you can find it here.  Adrienne Olszewska’s posted a short report on the Clayton-le-Moors site.  Trevor Burton’s posted his on the Fellsman Facebook page.  Stolly’s blog is here.

There are plenty of photos up.  Aleks Kashefi took a few, including the one below, and they’re up on Facebook – go to the Fellsman page to find them.

Gregareth (by Aleks Kashefi)

Gregareth (by Aleks Kashefi)

SportSunday were there, how could they not be?  Racing Snakes were taking photos too.  Giles Thurston took some really good ones, including this great one below of the sunset on Fleet Moss.  You can find the rest on his website, and I think he’ll get a blog entry on there too shortly.  There are plenty more photos on Facebook too.  Nick Ham’s photos are here.  Mick Armitage’s photos are on Youtube here.

Sunset over Fleet Moss (photo by Giles Thurston)

Sunset over Fleet Moss (photo by Giles Thurston)

Andy’s race report

I have to say I turned up for the Fellsman in a state of some trepidation.  Usually I’m looking forward to my races and raring to go, but I have to confess I didn’t really want to be there this time.  Why?  Well, I didn’t think I was in a fit state to run it.  I was tired.  I’d run the Calderdale Hike the weekend before, with a cold and a cough, and I was nowhere near recovered from any of that.  I’d had dental work done too, and had a really busy week.  I’ve been organising an event myself, and I’ve still got a list of things I should have done but haven’t.  But, I’ve already entered all the Runfurther races.  I’m trying for the Grand Slam this year.  I had to run.

But, I also had to finish.  Last year was my first attempt at the Fellsman, and I only got as far as Stone House, less than halfway round.  I’d got too cold and wet in the sleet on Blea Moor, and couldn’t warm up again.  I couldn’t let that happen again.  And yet there was snow forecast for teatime, and very low temperatures too.  These were the thoughts going through my mind as we gathered on the field in Ingleton ready to set off.  I was already wearing a thermal top, a fleece, a Runfurther Giraffe round my neck, a woolly hat and gloves.  In my pack were a second pair of running tights, two more pairs of gloves, another thermal top, a GoreTex walking anorak and more.  I wasn’t going to be caught out by the cold this time.

And yet.  The sky was blue, it looked like we were in for a great day.  And that’s pretty much what it turned out to be.  I struggled a bit on the long climb up Ingleborough, but I was expecting that.  My legs were still tired, and I’m never that quick going uphill, particularly early in a race when others have fresh legs.  As we approached the summit plateau there was some snow on the ground, but not enough to slow us down, and it wasn’t icy.  The first bit of the descent was pretty horrible, as usual, and I took it easy.  And then I started really enjoying myself.  What a beautiful day to be out in the Dales!  Down to the road, then the plod up Whernside, in the company of Nick Ham and Ian Hodge, although they soon pulled away from me on the climb.  Once on the ridge, faster runners were belting past us coming the other way: Karen, Dave Ralphs, Mick Cottam amongst them.  I wondered whether I’d see any of them again before the finish.  My expectation was that I wouldn’t – I expected to slow down to a crawl, and my objective was just to finish, not to perform additional heroics.

The ridge seemed to go on for ever, but eventually I got to the top, only to find two friends from Delamere Spartans on the top, recceing the Three Peaks.  A quick pause to exchange banter and for them to take an embarrassing photo, and it was my turn to race down again, past the next batch of runners on their way up.  Again, I wondered how many of them I’d be seeing later.  The run down to Kingsdale is a good one once you’ve turned off the stony ridge, and I was going better than I’d expected.  The Runfurther apprentices (Mike and Barney) caught me up on the descent, but that’s the last I saw of them, and they didn’t come past.  Fit young lads, or they were before they both got injured.  I’m not sure the Fellsman was the ideal comeback race for them, but they both finished anyway.

I quite like the climb up Gragareth.  It’s only the last bit that’s steep, and it doesn’t take too long.  Hands on knees, keep the back as straight as you can, and keep motoring!  I got my tally clipped by the hermit marshal on the summit (see Aleks’s photo above), and then followed Aleks along the ridge.  Somehow I got ahead of him, although I’m not sure how that happened.  Great Coum came eventually, and then we all yomped merrily down to Dent.  This year I missed the short cut at the start of the village, but it doesn’t really make much difference anyway.

So, off up the road out of Dent, and I still had a spring in my step.  The track that follows was OK too, although I was starting to feel the miles in my legs by now.  The we cut off left on the pathless stretch across to the Blea Moor CP.  This was where the sleet got me last year, but this year the sky was blue – so the bogs got me instead.  OK there had been soggy bits before this, and it was all much wetter underfoot than last year, but it was approaching the top of Blea Moor that I managed to go in up to my thigh in one of the many swampy bits.  The first of many.  I made my way down to Stone House a bit soggier than I had been, but still warm enough, although until my gloves dried out my fingers got cold for the first time.  Doen to Stone House then, a quick drink of water, and this time I could keep going, up the track under the railway viaduct, and turning left up to Great Knoutberry.  I didn’t know this stretch at all, but there were still plenty of people around to follow, and it’s not complicated.  Out and back to the top, jumping the boggy bits, then due south to Redshaw.  By this time I was feeling that it was time to stop.  I’d run over 30 difficult miles, and it was hard to face up to the fact that I wasn’t quite halfway through the Fellsman.  Following the fence round to Snaizeholme I passed the halfway point at last, somewhere out there in the swamps.  Only another ultra to go then.

I found the trek across to Dodd Fell and up to the top quite easy really, although my legs were no longer capable of running any uphill at all, even on the easy track.  The way off the hill was pathless but easy enough as we could see where we were going, and I reached the Fleet Moss CP in plenty of time to avoid being grouped.  It was getting a lot colder though, so I put on my jacket and added a second pair of gloves.  For most of the day I’d been taking off my Giraffe and gloves whenever we’d dropped off the tops, but from now on it just got colder and colder.  Before Fleet Moss I’d already lost felling in most of both feet, thanks to frequent soakings in ice-cold bog water.

A group of five left Fleet Moss just after I got there, so I followed them out.  I’d recced from here to the end, but that was over a year ago, and I knew the next bit was a bit tricky to follow, although I knew the general idea was to contour round the hillside.  Visibility was so good that it would have been easy enough on my own, I think, but as it was there were plenty of runners to follow.  I thought maybe I’d stick with the group I was following, but I got a bit of a second wind along here, and overtook them, catching up with Andrew Elwood and Kevin Smith, who’d gone past me a lot earlier, looking a lot stronger than I was.  Now they had settled into a fast walk, with very occasional bits of jogging on the easiest stretches, so I thought that would probably suit my pace pretty well for the rest of the way, as I was sure I’d be tiring again soon.  We stayed in touch all the way to Cray, and although we weren’t running together all the way it was in the back of my mind that I should be OK if we go grouped together.  In fact we caught up a few other runners on the descent down the track from Hell Gap, and a crowd of us arrived at Cray together, just before 9, as it was just starting to be dark enough to need our torches.

We ended up grouped as a 7.  Me, Andrew, Kevin, Dave Ralphs, two runners who’d finished just behind me at the South Shropshire Circular in February, and a 7th runner I haven’t yet identified (I don’t think I chatted with him).  As it turned out it was a good grouping, for me anyway.  Andrew knew the route pretty well, and one of the others was using a GPS, so I didn’t need to worry about routefinding.  We kept moving at a fast walk with no faffing around, and I managed to keep the pace up on the way up Buckden Pike.  I then put my head down and started following the heels of the man in front of me.  Was it on Buckden Pike we hit the icy stiles for the first time?  I think so.  Wooden ladder stiles, where earlier runners, feet wet from the bog, had made the stile steps wet.  Then the water had frozen, and the following runners had added further thin layers of ice, until the whole stile was covered and tricky to cross.  Then there were the wooden pallets, placed in front of one stile so you could cross a very boggy area.  They were completely iced over too, and one was on a slant as well, making reaching that stile the most difficult bit of the whole day.

I was becoming more and more out of it, and it seemed to take forever to reach Park Rash, where I dried my gloves out on one of the gas fires, after yet another bog soaking.  Everything was icing up, the bogs had a crust on them now, although nothing like enough to hold our weight.  On the way up Great Whernside we took a line too far left, avoiding the boggy ascent, but meaning we had to traverse right across steep ground to regain the path higher up.  I struggled here, and for the first time the others had to wait a minute or two for me to catch up.  My legs no longer had the strength to cross difficult ground, or to climb at any speed.  My brain gave up now too.  I was no longer capable of making decisions, I just wanted this to end.  On I plodded though, doing my best to keep up with the others, and generally managing it just about.  Years later we saw the lights of Yarnbury, then the CP itself.  That’s it, all finished bar the shouting.  Ungrouped, the others all disappeared down the road, at a speed I couldn’t dream of.  I jogged down, feeling so relieved I couldn’t put it into words.  Through the sleeping village, over the bridge, up the hill and there was the school.  In the door, mumble out my number, someone cut off my tally and I sank onto a chair, incapable of speech.  An angel brought me a mug of tea.

And that was it, I’d run the Fellsman.  It was 2:15 in the morning, and my official time was 17:44.  It was an amazing experience, and it pushed me to my limits.  And the Grand Slam’s still on track: three races down, nine to go.  I drank the tea and shuffled to the gym/dormitory.  I struggled to get my shoes off, as my feet were still numb, and the laces were frozen.  I forced myself to keep going, and managed to have a shower, before taking painkillers and getting into my sleeping bag.  At this point the feeling started returning to my feet, and I realised my left foot might give me a bit of bother.  I fell asleep anyway, too exhausted even to let pain keep me awake.  The next day I drove home, trying to avoid changing gear, as whatever I’d done to my foot made it agony every time.  Even now, six days later, two of my toes are still swollen and partially numb.

Marlborough Downs Challenge on 15 May?  Bring it on!