Coldale Horseshoe 2014 – ‘The View From The Back’
‘Jogging up to race registration from the campsite, the first Clayton-le-Moors Harrier I bumped into was Richard Briscoe – the first thing he asked me was “Have you done this race before, is it hard?” to which the only response is ‘have you ever done an easy fell race Richard?’
The second race in the Clayton-le-Moors Harriers Fell running championships is a proper fell race in real fell running terrain in the Lake District. The Coledale Horseshoe is an 8.5 miles and 3002 ft of climbing in a classic Lake District setting. Whilst I have only done this race seven or eight times (in the 30 years or so that I have been involved in this crazy sport) it certainly is one of my favourite races given the terrain and natural horseshoe the race follows – and in particular the finish is all downhill!!
I’m always keen to make a weekend of fell running in the Lakes, and this weekend is no exception – an excuse for a weekend away in the caravan at the excellent campsite at Braithwaite (heated floor in the showerblock – brilliant at this time of year). On Friday night before the race I bumped into Gaz Wilkinson who had spent the week in a log cabin on the campsite with family .We reminisced about Coledale races of the past – Gaz did the race in the late eighties and gave the local Lakes lads a good spanking. I remember turning up in 1993 for what was in those days a mid summer evening race – a Borrowdale runner spotted my Clayton-le-Moors Harrier vest before the race and came over with the winners trophy for the Ennerdale race. He asked me to pass it on to Lee Thompson (an amazing Harrier of the past) who had won the Ennerdale race the previous weekend, but the trophy hadn’t been returned – thats the closest I’ve ever been to holding a winners prize!
On the morning of the race the weather was a bit overcast with the forecast for rain and high winds (with significant buffeting on the tops) at around the time of the race start – boy were they right. Jogging up to race registration from the campsite the first Clayton-le-Moors Harrier I bumped into was Richard Briscoe – the first thing he asked me was ‘Have you done this race before, is it hard?’ to which the only response is ‘have you ever done an easy fell race Richard?’
At registration, it was good to see a number of Clayton-le-Moors Harriers nervously looking at the race map and instructions and looking up into the mist wondering what the day had to offer. I know it is difficult to encourage our members to venture beyond East Lancashire, but there was a good number of Harriers up for the challenge of a proper fell race. My running has deteriorated over the last few years, and I knew that today was going to be difficult and probably the slowest I’d ever done on this course. Accordingly as I took my place on the start line I made my way to the back of the field and set off slowly hoping to make my mark on the steep climbs and in particular the descents. All of a sudden we were off and the orange and black hoops of my club mates sped off into the distance as I struggled with the first incline on my least favourite surface, the tarmac of the run out to the fell. The steps onto the fell brought everyone around me to a welcome walk (as far as I was concerned) and the atmosphere was very jolly as people took the time to have a bit of a conversation during the breather – I’m sure it was very different at the sharp end!!
Soon enough we were into the real grind of the climb up Grisedale Pike. The climb took me the best part of an hour, hard climb to start, followed by a ridge run then a gradually steepening climb up into the mist. I felt like I was gaining a bit on the runners in front of me as the climb steepened, heart rate was pumping and I was giving it everything. I was passing a few but as I approached the summit of Grisedale Pike I looked over my shoulder and realised that Katy Thompson was right on my shoulder – where the hell did she come from!? That was the kick up the backside that I needed and I resolved to give it everything I had on the descent to Coledale Hause to get away. However, cresting Grisedale Pike took us straight into the teeth of the gale that was blowing very strong – it was a struggle to get a good rhythm going, and the wind almost brought me to a standstill on several occasions.
Eventually we got down to Coledale Hause (still in very thick mist) – I felt like I was running on my own at this stage – couldn’t see the runners in front and was scared to look behind in case Katy was still hanging on. But at least we were out of the worst of the wind. It was at this point that I made the basic error of not putting my cag on – during the descent it was raining, not too heavily but enough to wet all my kit and base layer. I know the route well so didn’t need map and compass, as I started the climb of Crag Hill suddenly I could see a group of runners ahead – they looked like they didn’t really know the route and may have gone off course. I climbed quite strongly and quickly past a few (including a clayton lady whose name I don’t know). As we climbed we went back into the wind which picked up pace. The route at this point was quite hairy – it was hands and knees on steep rocky broken ground with scree mixed in. Added to which there were crags to our left (which thankfully you couldn’t see because of the mist) and all the time I was worried about being blown over the edge. As we topped out towards the top of Crag Hill we met the full force of the wind which went right through me and chilled me to the core through my wet base layer. It was too late at this stage to even consider getting my cag out because I was afraid it would blow away before I could get it over my head. Thankfully we were only on the top for a short period, and whilst the initial part of the descent was difficult suffering with cold I soon warmed up once out of the worst of the wind.
The next part of the race plays to my strengths, mainly downhill and I really started getting into my stride as we followed the flags off Sail through the heather. Picking up places all the way I made my way to the rocky track that eventually takes walkers to the Newlands Pass. The race however bears left to Barrow – here there are two choices of route. I always take the higher path and traverse to Barrow Door, and today I was surprised to see so many runners taking ‘my line’, since normally the majority of runners take the lower path ,which involves a bit more climb. I was even more surprised to see the runners in front of me continue up to Stile End – I did call back the nearest runner, but I think I benefited by at least 20 places by the finish. Barrow for me is always a test to keep running and I was reasonably pleased with my effort. The descent though was brilliant from my point of view – I have recce’d the descent on many occasions during my stays at Scott Gate Campsite. Thankfully this year they didn’t flag the descent so I was able to take my line down through the bracken direct to the gate. This cut off the corner and I believe it gained me another 7/8 places at least. I crossed the finish line feeling strong after 2hrs 2 mins – some 6 minutes slower than my last attempt in 2012. It’s fair to say that at the end it felt like a real achievement just to have completed the race today. Talking to people afterwards I got the impression that I wasn’t alone feeling that way.
I’m sure the results will be out shortly, but I did manage to establish that the first Clayton runner back was Vet Garry Wilkinson in just under and hour and a half, closely followed by young Dave Bagot with an excellent run just over 1.30 Not sure what happened in the ladies race but there was a good turnout of Harrier Ladies. Great to see so many Clayton-le-Moors Harriers so far North and hopefully we can include classic Lakes races in the Championship in the future.
On a final note I think it is entirely appropriate to thank the marshals on this one – very difficult conditions and even with full kit I wouldn’t have liked to spend a couple of hours on top of Grizedale Pike, Crag Hill or Sail – Well done Ellenborough!
Thanks to Andrew Firth for this weeks race report!
The Rest of the Weekends Action
Five Clayton-le-Moors Harriers took to the biggest ran in the UK this weekend, competing at the London Marathon 2014. Jonny McKenna, Michael Hogan, Martin Ritson, Collin Shuttleworth and Alexander Cran all made the trip down to the capital to contend with the countries best over the 26.2 mile course. Jonny put in a monstrous effort to finish his marathon among the uproarious London crowd in 02:42:20. Furthermore, he managed to finish in at 262nd out of over 39,000 runners! Matching this feat, Anthony Gotts had a momentous Marathon coming in at 31st overall and breaking the 2 hour mark, whilst also being widely spotted on national television coverage! Well done Jonny, Anthony and to all Clayton-le-Moors Harriers who ventured down. Great efforts all round! Full results found here.
A little closer to home, Clayton-le-Moors veterans were out in force at the Garstang Gallop 10k. Competing in the Lancashire race was Steve Biscomb, Martin Brady, Brian Wildman and Ron Chappel. All had excellent races with Steve leading the way with a brilliant time of 43:06. Another Lancashire 10k road race this weekend was staged at Bolton. This saw a sole Harrier contend in this hilly competition and as another veteran to boot. Kevin O’Brien finished just outside of the hour mark, producing a great time of 01:00:21.
Lastly, it seems the majority of Clayton-le-Moors Harriers had rest days or recce’s elsewhere, as a dwindled number of three competed at the Boulsworth Bog Fell Race this weekend. Nevertheless, they all valiantly bested this beastly fell race in great times. Alan Life was the first Harrier home in a time of 01:01:06. Next round the course was Jeffery Pickup in 01:06:22. Last but most certainly not least was Gary Balmer with a time of 01:09:38.
Well done to all who ran this weekend! Don’t forget that there are plenty of midweek races beginning too! You can view them all here. Good luck!