“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.
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.
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?
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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