> 2012 race reports
11/08/12 Howtown Fell Race - from Geoff Davis

When Things Go ‘Pear-Shaped’.

I felt confident before Saturday’s Howtown Fell Race having completed the ‘Joss’ just 8 weeks or so ago and having done well in a couple of recent ‘short’ fell races. My only concern was that I always struggle in long summer fell races – something to do with my internal cooling system. But with a litre of water in my sack and a peaked buff on my head I set off with race conditions, described elsewhere by ‘Old Cheviot’ as, “made for pleasant running”. I even chose what turned out to be a pretty good route onto Loadpot Hill and had Old Cheviot in my sights moving onto High Raise. I lost him on the descent off Rampsgill Head but still felt reasonably ok if a bit hot.

However, these things creep up slowly and as I approached Angle Tarn other runners started to pass me. By the time I got to Boardale Hause the needle was in the red and I felt decidedly dodgy! When Steph and Dave Wiseman caught me I was considering jacking it in, thinking I’d never make the climb up Place Fell. “Pleasant running” conditions were proving far too hot for me but I sat down, took a long drink, ate a couple of bars and thought “what would Jessica Ennis do”? The answer: carry on! So I started the slow ascent onto Place Fell. I was surprised to see Joe Faulkner marshalling at the top and took encouragement from his comment: “I’ve seen you looking better”.  My descent off the top was equally slow and I was unable to respond to Peter Reed’s demand to stay with him. I tried to cling to Denise Tunstall (not literally) as she went by but all to no avail. A ford came as welcome relief as I stood in it for a couple of minutes, washing myself down and soaking my buffs in the cool waters.

A brief slosh along a road took me to the base of the final climb – Hallin Fell. I could see Denise, Peter and some of my other conquerors toiling up a bracken covered slope. That was the last thing I needed but I remembered that there was a bracken free way that went up from Martindale church. So off I went up the road to the church and turned up the broad grassy swathe to the top of Hallin Fell. Denise, Peter and a number of others were now a lot closer and although I was still in a bad way I felt I was moving a little easier. Peter took a naff route off and Denise was a little tentative on her descent so off I went and managed to trot the last mile to the finish taking some consolation from clawing back a few places at the end.

But why do I never learn? Perhaps I’ll take notice of my own rules in future and ‘never do a long race in August’ – even if conditions “make for pleasant running”!!

Geoff Davis

Aug’ ‘12

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