I haven't run for a long time, around four and a half months. The excuses are many and varied.
In the aftermath of the Fellsman my heels were very bruised and putting on my running shoes (in fact any shoes) was uncomfortable. A such, I was unable to capitalise on post-Fellsman fitness despite managing a run commute to work over the moors. Then I hurt my knee again by not doing my physio excercises and playing volleyball with nothing in the way of a warm up which set my back a few weeks. Then work got suddenly very busy and I was working 8-9 hour days for a few weeks. It's also been easier to put more cycling in than running with cycling to work every day.
etc etc and so on. Everyone has their own excuses, no one wants to hear mine.
Suddenly a wild post appears on the KCAC Facebook page from our fell captain JP (he got to the nickname first in the running club and it still causes me to double take) calling for runners to take part in the Ian Hodgson Mountain Relay. I decided to put my name down as the highly enjoyable Open 5 adventure race season is starting soon and I felt this event would be the perfect re-entry into fell running.
The IHMR is a memorial race for a top class fell runner who died in the 80s after being knocked off his bicycle. All the big fell racing teams from the lakes are there - Ambleside, Borrowdale, Keswick as well as some of our local friends from Bingley and Calder Valley. Effectively it's a national competition with a lot of strong teams. And me.
Of course with a combination of crazy work and my first cold in a year meant my training was... sub optimal. I just hoped that my cycling fitness would get me round...
I got a lift up with my Fraser and Lorna who was my running-mate for Leg 1. Lorna was quite travel sick on the way up and yet still managed to boss her way around the leg. If I'd have been in her state I wouldn't have been able to get out of the car, never mind up a hill - she's twice the man I am ;)
JP gave us our numbers, we chatted briefly to Ian Holmes (not many sports where you hang out with the ex-national champion pre race) and faffed around long enough to make it to the back of the start group on time.
"and-stick-to-the-path-through-the-field-don't-cut-across-the-grass-3-2-1-go!" - race organiser
Keen to make a good start, the field all set off like it was a 100m race. We settled into a steady pace about 2/3 of the way down the pack, making steady progress from Patterdale up to Boredale Hause, gradually reeling in a few pairs.
The weather was being kind to us - light cloud cover, low wind, dry underfoot, a good running temperature.
We eventually crested the hill and belted down the fun-runnable track to Angle Tarn and our first CP. The view was great and I was immediately reminded why I like fell running so much!
Thanks to some advice from a Bingley runner, we picked a good line on the approach to the main descent - a steep 45° grassy slope that was almost as easy to slide down as run down with a fantastic view towards the nose of Grey Crag.
We dibbed again at the bottom of this hill and then thundered down the track. My legs felt shot by this point, the pace so far and the lack of training really starting to kick in. I just grimaced, not even enough time to wipe the sweat, spit and snot (mmm....) from my face and tried desperately to keep up with Lorna to the finish line.
"COME ON PAUL, LAST 200!!!! COME ON!" - One shouty Tring runner to the other. Poor Paul.
"Well done Paul!" - supportive Lorna to poor Paul.
The runners were scattering walkers and marshals from the path as we belted down to the finish to frantically dib and pass the baton on to Dave and Paul for leg 2 who set off like men possessed.
We got spot kit checked by one of the marshals (who'd all done a great job as is pretty much always with fell races) so it's a good job Fraser had lent me his hat and gloves as I'd forgotten mine - that's how out of practice I am!
We chatted briefly to Caren who was on logistics duty before trotting slowly off down the bridleway back to the start chatting about fruit picking and analysing the leg. We passed a few of those lumbering behemoths of the countryside (D of E-ers) and a few walkers before arriving back at the start.
We were 54/70 on our leg taking 54:02 in total which we were quite happy about. We finished the relay overall in 57th place in 5:16:25, half an hour quicker than last year. Given that this was a national competition with most teams fielding their best runners we didn't feel too bad about our performance! Well done to the rest of the team Dave + Paul, JP + Owen and Gary
The overall winners were Borrowdale in 3:34:53 - quite a difference. Those guys are fast.
The smell of bacon wafting from the tea tent was too much so a cup of tea and a bacon and egg sandwich were definitely in order. I had to drink my egg immediately to stop it going everywhere - perfect!
I had to have a second helping of cake - it was as big as a hill!
Fraser had gone for a loop on his bike down Kirkstone Pass and back up the Struggle and once he was back we headed off for home. All that fresh air and exercise had me puffed out and I slept in the back of the van from Windermere to Settle.
I woke up just in time to guide us in to stop at one of the best shops in the world - the Courtyard Dairy - so that I could stock up on Sparkenhoe Red Leicester - my favourite cheese that has been gracing my sandwiches this week :)
My legs really hurt. Ouch ouch ow. Going to the KCAC social from the White Lion in Kildwick tonight to say hello to the pinnacle and try and work out some of the knots.
It's had the desired effect of getting me back into running. Thanks to t'other JP for the place in the team.
Ben Mounsey's blog of the day