> 2012 race reports
21/04/12 Teenager With Altitude - from John Telfer

TEENAGER WITH ALTITUDE – 15.4 miles & 7,600 feet of ascent
April 21, 2012

For lovers of full-on brutal slogs where you cover over five and a half thousand feet of ascent in the first half of the race and throw in a seemingly near vertical 1,500 feet muscle trashing descent then the TWA is the race for you.

Content in the knowledge I only had to finish to be first (and last) NFR I was joined by around 95 others including Stewart Barrie working his way back from a series of injuries (creeping old age), Colin Valentine and a few Carnethyites who were planning and ultimately executing a very successful cross border raid.

The race started just off the road at the foot of Causey Pike and although it avoids the straight up route via Rowling End it nevertheless provides a very testing (for me anyway) 600 foot traverse ascent and then 400 foot of direct ascent to the Sleet Hause col followed by a further ascent of 500 foot straight up to the summit with a bit of scrambling thrown in.

In the half hour or so it took me to cover a mere 10% of the race distance it became clear to me that I was wearing entirely the wrong type of shoes (not enough grip) and my near 2 week taper since Allendale probably had been a bit excessive. Passing the first checkpoint was also the cue for the heavens to open and abuse me with chunks of rain and hail requiring a stop to don waterproofs.

The short ascent of Outerside, the second summit, at least had the rain on our backs which then miraculously ceased almost as soon as I clocked in at the summit checkpoint. However, my trail shoes made for a second sub-optimum descent. I won’t say it was bad but I was passed by Long John Silver complaining of woodworm in his artificial leg and a chronic hamstring problem in his other good leg.

The next 45 minutes was a gruelling slog through the Coledale valley including 1,500 feet of ascent across boggy and tussocky ground before joining the path up to Coledale Hause before taking the ridge route up on to Grasmoor. Although the summit plateau was wreathed is a swirling mist the visibility was pretty good so at least navigational problems were not to be added to my ever-increasing list of woes.

The run off Grasmoor, skirting the summit of Wandope and down to Whiteless Pike all in a downward direction probably formed the most enjoyable part of the day. It also afforded a view across Newlands Hause to the next two checkpoints of High Snockrigg and Robinson, looking resplendent in something approaching sunshine.

Any thoughts that maybe this wasn’t venture wasn’t so bad after all were cruelly and quickly dispensed with upon the approach to Whiteless Pike around Thirdgill Head Man. Although the direction of travel is downward the path has large rocks strewn across it whilst where a path exists it is stony and very uneven and ready to catapault the unwary runner down some pretty severe drops on either side.

However, that was merely the hors d’oeuvres of what was to follow. Today’s main dish was a near vertical drop down of 1,500 feet from the Whiteless Pike summit checkpoint first through heather then through thick grass with a liberal sprinkling of random stones before less inclement ground was reached. Had I been wearing flippers or flip-flops my descent couldn’t have been any less painful or slower.

By now the race was really twisting the knife. It wouldn’t have been so bad had this descent led directly to the next checkpoint at Newlands Hause but where’s the fun in that? Instead the “low” point of the descent (in more ways than one) was Sail Beck, which necessitated an upward traverse around the flanks of Knott Rigg before crossing the road to the checkpoint at the Hause.

At this point spirits were not high and I was feeling a possible return of the Hardmoors Blister and I seriously considered calling it a day. However, to do would have been an admission of being a total wuss (not difficult) and slightly encouraged by the fact I had narrowed the gap between me and the group in front I ploughed on up to High Snockrigg.

Last year after following a Keswick vest off this summit I was seconds from committing to a visit down to Buttermere in the thick mist. However, today’s clear conditions posed no such problems and the line to Robinson posed no problems to the eye although matters underfoot were another matter.

From the approach it all looks like a nice grassy path, which in parts it is, but conceals two mossy bogs for which there is no escape and which would not be out of place at Allendale. Despite being reduced to counting steps and assuming the trudge of a condemned man on his ways to the gallows I somehow managed to overtake a couple of runners (or should that be competitors) by the time I reached the checkpoint on Robinson.

At this point we Teenagers were joined (or maybe they thought we were joining them) by a portion of the Anniversary Waltz runners. It was easy to spot a Waltzer as they all seemed to moving faster, with a more carefree gait and some of them even seemed to be enjoying themselves. It did, however, give me something to pace myself against and I did notice picking the pace up a bit as we made our way over Hindscarth and Dale Head before another truly awfully performed descent to the tarn.

The most noteworthy event of the penultimate ascent up to High Spy was passing Joss Naylor who on clocking yours truly must have returned home to Wasdale safe in the knowledge that all his many records were not about to be snatched away from him by some lycra clad NFR runner (shuffler).

On and on across the long drag to and past Maiden Moor in something approaching a good rhythm. First Walla Crag comes into sight then Derwent Water, Keswick and then joy of joys, Catbells. Just as thoughts of the finish started creeping into my sub conscious state my left leg went into a spasm of a vice like grip of cramp that slowed me to a half hobble. Just as that was wearing off my right leg decided it was its turn to have a go. By some miracle I managed to walk it off and even managed a creditable jog to the summit of Catbells.

Driven by some logic only one degree short of insanity I thought it would be a good idea to belt down to the finish, overtaking about half a dozen Waltzers on the way. This actually paid off quite handsomely as Billy and Teviotdale’s Kenny and Keith had walked up the road from the finish and may have formed the opinion that I always ran like that. The give away was that if I did always run like that I would have been finished about an hour earlier.

Still I managed to keep it going to the finish and despite a lower place than the previous year I was actually about 8 minutes quicker. Whilst that would have easily been accounted for by last year’s navigational errors I had handicapped myself this year by wearing ballet shoes (or something that seemed akin to them). Having weighed these factors up in my delusional little world I decided I had performed better than last year. 

My time of c 4 hours 18 minutes will not be causing the fell running elite too many sleepless nights. I understand that about an hour and a half earlier a thrilling finish had been fought out with the first three runners finishing within 30 seconds of one another. In fact the trophy headed back over the border with Carnethy winner Andrew Fallas (2 hours 54 minutes and 49 seconds) who had triumphed over Steve Pyke and Scoffer. All Stewart and I took back over the border were sore legs and mud from the parking field.

As we drove back North regaling each other about our own “truly worst moments” from the day the pain eased and by the time we parted in Galashiels we were unanimous that it had been a great day, plenty of quality miles and climbing in the bank, we will reap the benefits at the next race etc and all of this without any of the free ale on offer at the finish having passed my lips.

As ever an excellently organized race, considering there were two races to administer and over 500 faces to feed. All seemed to go off without any problems with the only reported casualty being NFR’s own Peter Reed who fainted with shock when I informed him I was foregoing a night in the ale-houses of Keswick in order to spend some quality time with my family that night (i.e. I am going to be away quite a lot in May and June and better try and earn the necessary half a brownie point to cover that 2 month period).

Results (a.k.a. The Roll of Shame) on the Anniversary Waltz website.

John Telfer

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