Saturday, 20 August 2011

Eccles Pike Fell Race

I was looking forward to this race, a blast up and down Eccles Pike from the Navvy at Buggy, a favourite pub from my younger years as the son of a Morris Man. A few days previously I'd made a concious decision to take this one fairly seriously and push hard throughout, as often in races I find myself taking it a bit too easily on the uphills early in the race in anticipation for the last 1/3rd and the finish sprint. Having not been up Eccles Pike since a may-day sunrise more than a decade previous (Morris-dancing father again...) I took advantage of my (fast running out) time off with a bike-ride over to Buggy via the Roych, before having a quick scout of the route (flags were already out at 12!) and a look at the view, as I knew I wouldn't get a look later!
Combs Resser from Eccles PIke (pinched from

 I took a bit of a nap (oversleeping a bit) before riding out (flat way this time). I was hoping for either a really strong field to test myself against, or a weaker one to do some pot-hunting. Looking at previous results I was expecting the former and I wasn't disappointed - a quality field for a summer holiday Wednesday evening: Jack Ross from Staffs Moorlands (17, whippet!), Glyn from Glossopdale, Simon Harding (Macc), DazH, Adam, Dan, Noel, Dave, Muir and Steve (all Pennine), Jonny Wilson (FatBoys) and a few from Altringham - including Olivia Bush - getting first-ladied for the first time in 13 months was a definite possibility!

In the wait for the starters to arrive a Wasp stung me on the finger - thankfully it got me after I'd slapped it off my face.
 I took it out quite hard from the start, trying to avoid the banter starts (and, alas, the sneaky short-cuts) inevitable in a pinch-point so early on in a short race. Onto the road in 3rd I let Dan and Jack get away a bit, with Simon and a couple of others coming past after the bridge and Adam as we hit the first bit of climb. Across the fields I was in touch but was expecting Glyn and Jack to go off the front, and they took Simon with them. I don't remember the fielded climb, other than that I saw the shadow of someone just behind be and knew it was Daz. Across the road and onto a flatter section I was holding Adam and Dan's group at about 20-30m, although Jon and another did come past. Onto the final steep climb up to the summit and I felt really light and springy and managed to get back on terms with Adam, Dan and a couple of others fairly quickly, feeling much more supple and springy than normal. Daz was still just behind me and gave us all some encouragement as we started hands-on-kneesing as we got closer to the top. I just made out Chris in her marshall's bib before, finally in a race, managing to surge off the top of a climb the way Jackie Lee did to me at last year's May Queen race. I started the descent in 5th place about 20m behind Dan and took the first part of the descent fairly easy to not risk my ankle and catch my breath - with guys like Daz, Adam and Tom Bush behind me my record of never being overtaken on a descent was in serious jeopardy!
Looking at Adam's bum(...) whilst approaching the summit of Eccles Pike (taken by Geoff Briggs)
 Onto the flattish bit I kept Dan within striking distance and didn't look behind me. As we entered the fields Dan made a slight mistake, making to head right. He was still ahead of me but I knew this was where I had to strike, overtaking him on the rapid descent through the fields. Onto the slightly uphill field and I could just see Glyn in 3rd about 30 seconds ahead. I know it's impossible to catch him but by trying I'll be less likely to be caught by those chasing hard behind - as (I presume) they're in a bit of a pack they'll be able to push each other along, making it easier to reel me in.
 Hitting the road I have a quick look behind and can't see (or hear) anyone, but as we turn towards the bridge I have a sneaky look back and can see that Tom Bush has taken Dan and is closing a bit. I suck up and keep going, knowing that I have to put my all into the last little raise after the pub. Thankfully I have enough ground and my slight-uphill-drag running is sufficiently good enough that I don't get caught, finishing 4th in 23:54, 1:22 behind the eventual winner (and new-course new record setter) Jack Ross (results).
I think this was my best all-around Fell Race performance, but then again in races around the 5km mark you just have to go for them - there's no tactics! I was pleased I was able to keep on going for longer than normal uphill and with how I pushed off the top of the climb (although there's still still some work to be done on both these aspects!). It was also really pleasing to be at the head of the group I'm normally at the back off - staying there will take some hard work though!

A great turn-out and performance from the Pennine crowd - the usual Vet prize horde along with 7 runners in the top 20 of a fairly loaded field. I'm really looking forward to the relays later in the year - although there's likely to be an almighty scrap for places in the team!
Here's my GPS/Hr trace - Note that shortly after the descent my HR monitor slipped and started measuring my belly-button, hence the 'elevated' readings towards the end!

Needless to say, Sedbergh will be a different kettle of fish!

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