Trofeo Vanoni!

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The 58th Trofeo Vanoni Relay

This prestigious event takes place every year in the little town of Morbegno, nestled in the Valtellina Valley in Northern Italy, a hotbed for mountain running. The route runs along the historic centre of Morbegno and the ancient paths that lead to the village of Arzo. The individual records are held by Alex Baldaccini (28’21 “in 2012) and Anna Pichrtova (21’41” in 2007).

143 teams (with 3 athletes) had entered, each taking turns to run the challenging 4 mile route. With almost 2000ft of climbing and a crazy descent to the finish, this was a race perfectly suited to my style of running. If Carlsberg made mountain races…

The Trofeo Vanoni is twinned with the Snowdon Race. I’d been selected to represent the Snowdon Race GB team following my 3rd place finish at the Snowdon International in July. Joining me in the team were the two other top GB finishers in the race, fell running legend Rob Hope (who was 4th) and Yorkshire speed merchant Tom Adams (5th). The women’s team was just as impressive, Lindsey Brindle (2nd), Katie Walshaw (3rd) and World Mountain running silver medallist Emmie Collinge (winner of the Snowdon uphill only race).

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Pictured above: (L to R) Tom Adams, Lindsey Brindle, me, Katie Walshaw and Rob Hope.

We were also joined by the Welsh team…Richard Roberts, Pete Ryder, John Spill, Heidi Davies, Katie Beecher and of course my good mate Math Roberts. We were all in charge of looking after Math – famed in the town for his late night drinking sessions. One year he fell asleep in a bush and almost missed his flight home after extreme post race celebrations.

True to form, he woke up Marco (the hotel owner) on the very first night coming back from the pub! Haha!

Training Camp

I was desperate to make the most of my 5 days in Morbegno so that meant running as much as possible before and after the race, but careful not to tire myself out before the big day. We arrived late on Thursday and set our alarms for an early start the next day. The plan was to catch the bus to San Martino and head up Val Di Mello for an easy run in the mountains. Rob had done something similar on the same trip a few years ago so he was our guide for the day. Pudsey & Bramley might want to consider him for leg 3 of the FRA relays next year as he proved himself more than capable with a map in his hand!

The landscape and surroundings were absolutely stunning. As we climbed steeply towards Passo Di Zocca it made us all appreciate not being stuck behind a desk at work, this was the kind of run I only usually dream about.

On the way up we talked about how fast Kilian Jornet runs uphill on his DVD, a sprint compared to our paltry pace. We thought it would be funny to take a few of our own Kilian style pics at 2000m. Plus it’s a great advertising for Salomon as Rob is one of their top sponsored athletes.

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Pictured above: Me x 3, John Spill (star jump) and Rob Hope in various ‘Kilian’ style poses.

We also managed a visit to the beautiful town of Colico on the Saturday. The italians were very entertained by our midday swim in the freezing cold waters of Lake Como…

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Pictured above: The beautiful Lake Como and our quick dip!

The ‘Braulio’ Brothers

Forget the Brownlee brothers, there’s a new partnership on the running scene…Rob Hope and yours truly.

Aside from Karl Gray, my fell running heroes are Ian Holmes, Rob Jebb and Rob Hope. All 3 are fell/mountain running legends in their own right, plus they’re still competing at the highest level and have been for the last few decades. What I also admire about them all is the fact they’re just a great set of blokes, no bravado and no arrogance. So for me spending 5 days with Rob was like the equivalent of going on a football holiday with Gary Lineker.

Funnily enough I’m not entirely convinced the italians share my love for the ‘Great White Hope’…

Rob Hope

Pictured above: Comedy timing on the start line!

Rob and I were both keen to sample the local food and drink. Popular in this region is Braulio, made only 60 miles from Morbegno in Bormio. It’s an aperitif made from mountainous fruits, roots and berries. You can’t drink pints of the stuff but it’s nice to enjoy a couple on a night and it kept me off the Peroni, which I’m prone to drinking too much of! We aimed to work our way through most of the top shelf in the hotel and sample the best local liqueurs. My personal favourite is Genepi, worth a try if you’re next in Italy. I’m hoping after drinking so much Braulio they might offer us both some sponsorship in return for some free advertising.

RACE DAY!

The women’s race

The women’s race was an amazing spectacle to watch. I was very jealous that they got to start at such a reasonable hour (11am and our race started at 2pm) but very relieved they ran separately. That was because Emmie Collinge was simply outstanding and I wouldn’t have wanted to race her. She led from start to finish and smashed the course record to pieces. Italy’s star runner Alice Gaggi was 2nd but couldn’t compete with the ferocious pace that Emmie had set on the long climb.

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Pictured above: (L) Emmie at the finish and (R) the top 3 women.

The rest of the GB women also ran superbly. Next home was Katie Walshaw (7th), just a whisker in front of Heidi Davies (9th) and Lindsey Brindle (10th), with Katie Beecher in 13th. Heidi suffered from some serious blisters on the descent so did really well to finish inside the top 10. At 17 years old I’m confident she’ll be winning the race in years to come. Lindsey also ran well considering she was full of cold, her pace on the descent was incredible.

Results of the women’s race…

Classifiche Femminili 2015

The men’s race

Prior to the race we had to declare our team to the organisers for the race programme. We decided to go with Tom on leg 1 for a controlled and sensible start, Rob for an experienced and solid leg 2 and me for a ‘headless chicken’ style leg 3. If all went to plan we knew we could be in with a chance for a top 5 finish and individually we all might have a chance at sneaking into the top 10 of the fastest legs.

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Pictured above: A sample of the race trophies

I couldn’t believe the scale of the support, in Italy mountain running is a serious sport and very popular. The crowds are well clued up and they know who all the top runners are. There were thousands of people spectating en route and the race was televised. I usually get pretty nervous before a race but this was on another level, I don’t think the pressure of the final leg helped either.

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Pictured above: The start of the race

Before the race began we headed up to the top of the first climb so watch the front runners come through. So much for Tom’s steady start as he was leading the race from a strong field. To be fair he did look really comfortable and I knew at this point we were serious contenders for the win nevermind the top 5!

We headed down to the finish to see Tom come through to the changeover point in 5th place, clocking a very impressive time of 31:46. Next up was Rob and we listened on the loudspeaker as he began to pick off the teams in front one by one. He ran a superb leg and by the time he’d reached the top of the climb he was up to 2nd. I was bricking it, mainly because i knew then I was going to be embroiled in an epic battle with Julien Rancon of France, whose team was now leading the race. Worst still I’d have course record holder Alex Baldaccini hunting me down all the way. My heart sank, suddenly my ‘glory’ leg didn’t seem quite so glorious anymore! The double espresso I’d just washed down with a caffeine gel was going to have to propel me up the steep climb.

I waited nervously at the changeover for first runner to appear. In came the French and Rancon set off at a blistering pace. I waited again. Then suddenly Rob appeared, he’d had a stormer and sprinted through in 31:04. I was off! Chasing Rancon and running scared from Baldaccini!

The first climb felt relatively easy (probably my espresso and gel) and I felt great. I hit the road and still felt good, then it was onto another steep climb. I was struggling now. Rancon was well clear and realistically I was running to protect 2nd place. I was about 1km from the top on the final switchback to the summit and I made the mistake of looking down. Local superstar Baldaccini was closing in like a Cheetah on it’s prey…oh dear. The crowd were going wild, it was clear who they wanted to win. They were also screaming what sounded like ‘Die Ben, Die!’ in italian. Bit harsh you might think but thankfully I knew it was ‘Dai!’ – an encouraging word for ‘come on!’. Either way I was going to have to destroy myself in the final 2 miles to have any chance of protecting 2nd place.

I hit the descent like a bullet. I could’ve almost been in a 100m race with Usain Bolt. I’d practised the route twice before the race so I knew what to expect. The only problem was practising at a jog is very different to full on race pace. I overcooked turns, missed a few choice lines and was lucky at times not to break a leg. To be a good descender you have to take risks and I was taking them in abundance. I felt like I was playing roulette with an almost fully loaded gun. Thankfully I’d taken out extra travel insurance before the trip so I was running with some added confidence at least 😉

My risk taking had paid off. As I neared the end of the descent I was flying. My thoughts now turned to the final run in on the road, I’d not got much left in the tank. My pace was slowing as the gradient flattened and I honestly didn’t know if I could hang on. I didn’t turn around because I didn’t need to. I could hear the roars of the crowd and they were all cheering for Baldaccini. He was closing in fast and there was still 100m to go. I laid it all on the line, full gas! It was enough…JUST! In the end the gap was only 2 seconds but it felt as good as winning the race.

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Pictured above: (L) The end of the race and (R) The Snowdon GB team – Rob, me and Tom

Rancon and the French had taken the win by just 16 seconds and Baldaccini had to settle for third behind us despite his heroic effort. I was buzzing! One of the best races I’ve ever done and to get a top team result with Tom and Rob was the icing on the cake with an italian cherry on top. Time to celebrate.

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Pictured above: Me (2nd), Julien Rancon (1st) and Alex Baldaccini (3rd)

Strava

https://www.strava.com/activities/420142014

Individual results

Individuale 2015

Team results

Staffette 2015

Race video

Trofeo Vanoni Facebook page

https://www.facebook.com/trofeo.vanoni/?fref=ts

The presentation was a very grand affair compared to the kind I’m used to i.e. standing in the cold rain whilst prizes are dished out from the back of someone’s boot in a pub car park. We cheered the women as they received their well earned prizes and waited patiently for our names to be announced as the 2nd team. Before that was the presentation for the 3 fastest legs. In 3rd was Czech Republic’s Jan Janu who’d smashed leg 1 in a very impressive time of 30:33. He’s a class act. A few weeks ago he’d finished 10th in the World Mountain Running Championship in Wales. Baldaccini had finished just behind him in 11th and I was 31st in comparison.

Then something very strange happened. They announced my name as the second fastest leg…WTF! I couldn’t believe it, I don’t think the rest of the team could believe it either. I knew I’d ran well to hold off Baldaccini but he’d reeled me in all the way so I’d just assumed I’d ran a mediocre time. In reality he’d ran an unreal time of 28:48, only 27 seconds outside the record. I’d ran 30:21 including the second fastest descent, one of the best times ever posted by a GB athlete. Not bad for my Trofeo Vanoni debut. I can’t describe how shocked I was, in fact I still don’t quite believe it. It’s certainly the most money I’ve ever won for a race and coupled with team prize it’s the first time I’ve returned home from a trip with more money than I actually went with!

The trophy was pretty impressive too – a huge glass panel artistically decorated and designed to sit proudly on a handcrafted metal plinth in the shape of a mountain range. I had grand ideas of taking it home on the plane and convincing my wife to let me put it on display in the house. I carefully carried it back to the hotel and stored it safely in my room. Less than 12 hours later it was quite a different story. I carried it down to reception, carefully leant it against the wall and then watched it slide onto the floor and smash into a thousand pieces. Gutted. I could’ve cried. Everyone else thought it was hilarious including my wife when I told her the story.

On the plus side at least we don’t have to wear our Snowdon GB team polo shirts again…

2nd place team Snowdon Team 2nd place GB darts team

Pictured above: (Top) The presentation – WITH trophy before I smashed it (Below) 2nd team and 1st Darts team

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Red, White and GOLD!

The loss at the hands of Borrowdale in the Hodgson Brothers Mountain Relay really hurt, as a team we were all gutted. So after 2 weeks of licking our wounds, multiple reccies of Pendle and serious team talks, it was now time to make amends and lay a few demons to rest. The day of reckoning was finally upon us…The British Fell Relays 2015.

This year we had the added pressure of starting as favourites with our South Yorkshire neighbours, Dark Peak. Last month it was we who emerged victorious by beating DP to the Open and V40 titles in both the English and British Championships. In my opinion if you are the best team over the season then you need to prove you’re also the best team at the relays, on a day when every club fields their strongest 6 runners.

Our first challenge of the day was to put up the CVFR club tent. There were plenty of people to help out but it certainly wasn’t our finest display of teamwork. The women suggested we read the instructions, the men suggested we didn’t. For me reading the de-structions is like having to read a map during a fell race, it takes time and I’m not prepared to stop and do it. So in typical fashion we tore open the bag, began assembling the poles and 5 minutes later realised the poles we’d erected on the inside of the tent should’ve been on the outside. Whoops. Personally I didn’t really think it made a difference anyway – the weather was good, it wasn’t going to blow down and perhaps no one would notice anyway. Also best to get any mistakes or bad examples of teamwork out of the way before the race and when it really matters!

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Pictured above: The CVFR tent

Thankfully our preparation for the relay itself was much better. We were all more than ready, everyone knew their legs and we’d all been training really hard. Plus Daz Kay had spent just as much time planning his red and white outfit as he had on reccies. Only a terrible nav leg, accident or a faster team would deprive us of the win.

One thing I’d not mentioned to the lads is that prior to the race every team had been asked to provide some information about every member of the team (2015 achievements etc.). This was so the race commentator would have plenty to say as we finished each leg and approached the changeover in the final field. I’ve included the commentary I provided at the beginning of each leg description…(time for me to own up lads just in case you were wondering how they knew so much about you – sorry! You can get your own back at some point I’m sure)

Leg 1: Solo leg, 7K with 450m of ascent

Tim Ellis

Lancashire Fell Running Champion 2015 

4th at Guisborough 3 Tops (English Champs)

Owns the best and most expensive running gear in the country

Single and looking for a new relationship- open to offers and not fussy- men/women

2nd smallest of the 3 Calder Valley hobbits.

We decided to stick the mighty hobbit, Timbo ‘Baggins’ Ellis on leg 1 as we wanted a strong start. Timbo has been running well on the short stuff recently so it made perfect sense. We knew he’d be well up in the mix and pushing for the win.

As expected, the legend that is Rob Hope romped home in 1st place for Pudsey & Bramley despite struggling with a serious cold. We were however delighted when Tim followed him home in 2nd place and just 6 seconds behind, with Helm Hill’s Mark Addison in 3rd. It was the perfect start.

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Pictured above: Tim working the climb on Leg 1 (Photo credit to Woodentops https://plus.google.com/photos/110439573756197443848/albums/6206882697492717585)

Leg 2: Paired leg of 15k with 630m of climb

Ben Mounsey

Yorkshire Fell Running Champion 2014 & 2015

Represented Yorkshire, England x 2 and Great Britain (World Mountain Running Championships) during 2015. 

Top 5 finishes in English and British Championship races- Flower Scar and Ras Y Moelwyn. 

7th in the UKA Mountain Running Championship

3rd in the Snowdon International

Selected to represent Snowdon GB team in the Trofeo Vanoni relay in Morbegno, Italy at the end of October 2015.

Matthew Roberts

3rd at Ras Y Moelwyn (British Champs) and Bradda Niarbyl (English Champs)

Robbed of a top 5 finish in the English champs at Guisborough

Wales’ finest export.

Best beard in fell running (apart from that s**t hairy bit under his bottom lip)

Worst shorts in fell running.

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Pictured above: The map of Leg 2 inc. checkpoints

The start of leg 2 felt like a 400m race and it was all my fault. I like to start fast, it suits my style of running and after a good strong blast I can quickly settle into a rhythm. By the top of the first field we’d managed to wrestle the lead from Pudsey’s Graham Pearce and Joe Baxter but there was still a long way to go.

I’m not sure what it is about the relays but because I get so fired up for the win my only tactic is to run eyeballs out and I could tell Math was in for a rough ride because I felt super strong from the off. As we entered the woods and began the first climb, I began to pull away and from this point we were in control of the race. Now I just needed to make sure Math could stay with me. Plus we needed to try and shake the P&B boys from our tail, easier said than done!

I thought before the race that we’d be the pair to beat on leg 2 but I didn’t consider the fact that we’d be winning the race within the first minute. Now it might sound daft, but being in the lead didn’t really help our chances of running the fastest leg because a) I was in charge of navigation (the route wasn’t flagged) and b) We’d nobody to follow. I won’t lie, I was really nervous as Math hadn’t reccied the leg and I’d slept since I reccied it, so there was always a good chance we might go wandering on the moor. To put the situation in perspective I once got lost in a cross country race that I’d organised! I’ve also gone wrong a couple of times on the Yorkshireman Half Marathon, despite doing the route every year for the last 7 years… so I think I’ve made my point 😉 I always find it easier to chase a lead than to protect it so we really did have our work cut out.

My first major worry was getting the line down to checkpoint 4, which was located at the bottom of Ashendean Clough. I knew the teams behind would all follow us and I didn’t want to get caught in the deep heather and bracken only for them to skip round us and take the lead. I decided to play it safe and stick to all the sensible route choices and to the lines I’d decided to take prior to the start of the race.

Thankfully we arrived quickly and safely at checkpoint 4 and the next section was the steep climb to the memorial stone on Mearley Moor. Within seconds of the ascent Math was paying for our fast start and Pudsey were slowly pulling us back. I knew if we were going to win this relay we’d have to make every second count and give our leg 3 runners the best possible start. Therefore instead of skipping off up the climb whilst Math suffered, I dropped back and helped to push him up the steep section with a series of very hard efforts. I think it made a big difference because we managed to extend our lead just enough to descend out of sight to checkpoint 5.

For CVF

Pictured above: The climb to the Memorial stone, checkpoint 4 to 5 (Photo credit to Adrian Nicholls http://anevent.co.uk)

From checkpoint 5 to Ogden Clough there was serious route choice. Follow the stream up the valley or climb up steeply to Black Hill and onto the fast runnable track at the top. I opted for the latter, still unsure whether it was the best choice. Had we been following anyone else at this point perhaps I may have chosen differently, but this was the way I’d decided to go after my recce so I had to play it safe.

As we began to climb I turned to see Graham and Joe descend down the wrong path and they were way off checkpoint 5. It would have been easy to turn a blind eye and let them struggle to find the right way but I’m a true sportsman and if I’m going to win then I’m going to win because I/we are the best on the day. I shouted to Graham and pointed him the right way. We’ve been friends a long time and I thought it was the right thing to do. Others reading this might disagree!

The climb up to the track seemed to take forever but I knew once we got there Math would find his running legs again and we could stride out to Ogden Clough. It was a relief when we finally made it and true to form he quickly lifted the pace.

Once we hit the top of Pendle Hill and checkpoint 8 we were back in full flow…

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Pictured above: The descent from Pendle summit (Photo credit to Woodentops https://plus.google.com/photos/110439573756197443848/albums/6206906474650853409)

We flew down the descent and the run in to the finish almost felt effortless as I could hear the support from the crowds on our arrival to the finish.

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Pictured above: The final 1km

I was happy we’d done our bit and I was even happier we’d manage to extend the lead with Dark Peak coming through in second place. As we handed over to Logie Bear and Daz on leg 3 we now had to pray the God of Nav would be kind to us and bring them home in contention.

Leg 3: Paired navigation leg

James Logue

The best orienteer in the club- given the huge responsibility of not getting lost on leg 3

Mr Serious

Doesn’t like losing or making mistakes.

In charge of shouting at everyone else in the team

Darren Kay

Most colour co-ordinated, fashion conscious man in fell running

Owns 25 pairs of different coloured Oakley sunglasses just in case he switches clubs again

Owns shares in Costa coffee

Loves to win, hates to lose. Argumentative, judgemental and not afraid to say what he thinks.

Has battered himself into shape for the relays and reccied each leg at least 10 times

Now I’d love to provide commentary on what happened during leg 3 but in truth I’ve no idea. I don’t even know if half of the runners on leg 3 knew what happened on leg 3!

We were hopeful our lads would do the business but equally there was also a good chance they might murder each other halfway round. Logie Bear likes to take charge and let others follow his lead. Daz also likes to take charge and isn’t afraid of saying what he thinks. Pairing them together was a bold and daring move, I can only compare it to the time I dropped a couple of Mentos in a bottle of Coca Cola. It didn’t end well. Hopefully this would be different?

By the sounds of it the lead changed more times than Daz changes his sunglasses. There were tears of joy, tears of frustration and for everyone watching tears of relief when we saw the runners approaching the changover. In one of the closest fought relays in years, no fewer than 4 teams sprinted in together with Pudsey and Bramley leading the charge! Thankfully the red and white vests were just behind Horwich and Keswick which meant Karl Gray on Leg 4 was still within touching distance of the lead. That bad news was we all knew it would take an unbelievable effort for him to win.

Leg 4: Solo leg, 8K with 400m

Karl Gray

World V45 Master Mountain Running champion

3rd at Duddon (English Champs)

4th at Bradda Niarbyl (English Champs)

V45 Gold medal winner in the English Championships

Tallest of the 3 Calder Valley hobbits

Calder Valley legend

 

John Heneghan (P&B) led the race out, followed by Sam Stead (Keswick), Jonathan Bruton (Horwich) and Karl Gray (CVFR).

There was much debate over who would take the win once these first 4 runners passed us on the first climb. There was also much doubt as to whether Karl could do the business, he was chasing the first 3 right from the start.

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Pictured above: Karl climbing to the summit of Pendle Hill (Photo credit to http://fellephant.com)

I never doubted him for a minute. He’s in superb form and I knew no one would be able to match his speed on the descents. Despite my confidence it certainly didn’t stop me from being nervous!

We watched, we waited, we guessed, we prayed and we hoped. Eventually a figure emerged in the distance. It wasn’t clear at first but then another appeared and another behind them. They quickly disappeared behind the line of trees in front of us and when they finally emerged it was Karl who was now leading the race. We couldn’t believe it!!! (well I wasn’t surprised – just VERY relieved!).

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Pictured above: King Karl at the finish of the ‘glory’ leg

It was an amazing feeling and one we’ve all been waiting for for a very long time. I still can’t quite believe we’ve done it. Team gold in the relays now proves we are officially the best team in Britain! It was close and it could’ve easily been a very different result had something gone wrong but the main thing is we’ve done it! Worth all the training and certainly worth the wait.

To add to our achievement our Calder Valley women also made the podium with a superb 2nd place!!! Well done ladies!!!

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Pictured above: The victorious CVFR men’s team and the CVFR women’s team

I was also really pleased to see Pudsey & Bramley in 2nd, they’ve enjoyed a revival this season and it shows they’re back as a major force in fell running. Dark Peak rounded off the medals making it a clean sweep for the Yorkshire teams. Keswick unfortunately just missed out on a top 3 but they won’t be too disappointed I’m sure. I’ve no doubt 2016 will be a big year for them and apart from Phil Winskill 😉 they’re a relatively young team with bags of potential.

I also need to take this opportunity to thank Clayton Le Moors Harriers and everyone involved in organising and making the relay such a brilliant and memorable event. You all did an outstanding job!

http://www.sportident.co.uk/results/2015/BritishFellRelay/fell_relay_relayoverall.html

https://www.strava.com/activities/414947984

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Pictured above: The prestigious winners shield and my team gold medal

So what’s next for me?

….Morbegno, Italy for the Trofeo Vanoni Relay with Tom Adams and Rob Hope (Snowdon GB team).

I’ve got my fingers crossed there’ll be even more to celebrate this year!

http://www.gscsimorbegno.altervista.org/Trofeo%20Vanoni.htm

Snowdon GB team vest

Pictured above: The Snowdon GB team vest

Purple Patch!

You lot are bloody useless. You can get 8 runners in the top 10 of the English Champs and we usually have 1. You’ve been beaten by a bunch of old men”. 

Scoffer (4th October 2015)

Nobody can quite sum up a bad day at the office like Borrowdale legend Andrew ‘Scoffer’ Schofield. Harsh words but very true.

We (Calder Valley) were beaten convincingly (yet again!) in the Ian Hodgson Mountain Relay, by an 8 man Borrowdale team with an average age of about 45. After all the build up, all the hype and all the expectation I can’t help but feel extremely disappointed and very deflated.

For the last decade the top fell clubs have all been muttering ‘this is our year’ and year after year the men in purple have always delivered the goods.

The thing about the IHMR is that you need to be consistently good over all 4 legs. You can’t afford to make mistakes, you can’t afford to be ill and you can’t afford to get lost in the mist. Everything needs to go well, your runners have to be well matched and you need to have the right pairs on the right legs. Borrowdale are rarely the fastest team on paper but they’re by far the smartest club and they know how to win. They don’t make mistakes. You have to admire and respect them, it’s as simple as that. More importantly you have to respect the race. It’s the toughest relay in the country for a very good reason.

So where did it all go wrong?

It’s always easy to point the finger at people but the answer is we just simply weren’t good enough as a team. Plus a number of other clubs like Keswick, who finished 2nd, massively raised their game this year and the competition was as good as it’s ever been. I was particularly pleased for Keswick as my good mate Phil Winskill had a storming run on leg 2 with Mark Lamb and Carl Bell and Steve Hebblethwaite were a class act on leg 4. Extra kudos for Carl as he’s been plagued by injury for the last 18 months and we all know he’s a very special talent. It’s great to see him back running and competing at the business end of races.

Phil Winskill also provided the highlight of the day by donning the most outrageous yellow shorts I’ve ever seen and coupled with a pair of leopard print boxer shorts. He’s the only man in fell running capable of pulling off this look.

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Pictured above: Phil Winskill and ‘those shorts’. The Ian Hodgson relay 2015 summed up in 1 photo.

In truth we were always going to be chasing the race after leg 1. Jason Williams paid the price for racing the road relays the day before and we then had nearly a minute to make up on the first pair. Tim Ellis had also been struggling with a cold for the last couple of weeks and unfortunately he and Math Roberts finished leg 2 a few minutes down on the top 3 teams, Dark Peak, Borrowdale and Keswick. In stepped Daz Kay to save the day with Gav Mulholland on leg 3 and they managed to claw back some time on the front lads to set up a titanic battle on leg 4.

The evergreen Davies brothers set off 1st for Borrowdale knowing that they would have to run an excellent leg to protect the 3 minute or so lead they had after the changeover. Next went Dark Peak with Neil Northrop and Dave Taylor, before we set off in tandem with Carl Bell and Steve Hebblethwaite for Keswick. I led out the chase to the first checkpoint and set a very quick pace. It was clear from the start it was going to be a sufferfest as we raced hard and attacked the climb, looking to claw back some time on the other teams. Interestingly all four of the top teams took a different route to Hart Crag and when we reached the summit Keswick had appeared to run the better line, or just ran faster, probably a bit of both if I’m honest. Karl worked his socks off on the ascent but he was in a world of pain and by this point we’d already lost too much time to Keswick and realistically we were running for third place.

We reached Hart Crag just in front of Dark Peak and from there we pushed on and ran the fastest split of the day to the summit of St Sunday Crag. In between these two peaks lies Fairfield and the descent to the bottom of St Sunday requires some serious route choice. We appear to be one of the few teams who chooses to take the most direct line over the treacherous Cofa Pike. For anyone who’s unfamiliar with this big lump of Lakeland rock, it’s extremely dangerous to run down at pace but if you can descend fearlessly and over very challenging terrain then I still believe it’s the quickest route. The alternative is to drop down to the left of it from Fairfield, avoid it completely and traverse round to avoid risking a potential leg break. It’s slightly longer in distance but better if you’re not confident at descending.

Cofa

Pictured above: Cofa Pike with St Sunday Crag in the distance

From here we climbed strongly to the summit of St Sunday but poor route choice from the top of the final descent cost us some valuable time. By this point Keswick were too far ahead to catch and Borrowdale were completely out of sight. But we were never going to casually trot down the final descent as Karl had had a bet with Ted Mason over who would get a faster time from the summit to the finish. In the end were the comfortable winners of the bet and Ted still owes us both a beer. A Yorkshireman never forgets so come the FRA dinner I’ll be following him to the bar and reminding him ;-). Perhaps we could go double or quits at the FRA relays in a couple of week’s time?

Strava | Results

Despite not winning it was still a cracking day out on the fells as it always is. This relay never fails to disappoint and it’s a shame we’re going to have to wait another 12 months to do it all again. Until then I’ll have to continue to dream about a Calder Valley win.

Maybe next year we can break Borrowdale’s purple patch?

Easier said than done!

 

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