Arnside Knott fell race

A common mistake in fell racing is to presume that the hillier the race is, the more difficult it will be. Arnside Knott fell race on Sunday definitely proved that to be false, as I arrived at the finish line more worn out than most other races I’ve done. It was definitely more intense than Great Whernside a few weeks ago.

Lorna uttered something to me before the start to the extent of “make sure you’re at the front of the group at the start”, and with this in mind I soon found myself in sixth place, huffing and puffing my way up slippy limestone covered in even more slippy leaves. The “make sure you’re at the front” strategy was to avoid the bottleneck as the race route took us onto a little single-track footpath just after the start, and it worked perfectly. I was pushing myself to maximum intensity, but in a manageable way so that I could (almost) maintain my pace for the duration of the race. After just over a mile, the guy in front cramped up and I slipped up into fifth place. After a stretch of road the final ascent of the Knott began, and I managed to overtake once more, putting me into fourth place until the summit. I had lost sight of the lead runners by this point and all that spurred me on was the knowledge that I was being pursued closely.

Go! Paul Webb, the winner, setting the pace at the start (middle of the picture).

Go! Paul Webb, the winner, setting the pace at the start (middle of the picture).

After dodging some curious cows standing around the summit trig, I started the descent, doing my best to avoid ploughing into those still making the ascent (the route is straight out and back), whilst valiantly trying to maintain my position. A real sting in the tail came in the form of a steep ascent about a mile from the finish, and at this point my legs decided they’d had quite enough ascent, allowing two guys who had been chasing me on the descent to finally pass. I managed to hang onto sixth position until the finish, frustratingly being only one second behind fifth place across the line.

Heading for the summit - on the final ascent of the Knott.

Heading for the summit – on the final ascent of the Knott. Photo copyright Mark Cronshaw.

My finishing time was 37:48, whilst the winner (Paul Webb) smashed the course record by nearly two minutes, finishing in 34:56. The full results are available here.

Nearly there! On the finishing straight.

Nearly there! On the finishing straight.

Great Whernside fell race

Last Saturday was the Great Whernside fell race, an annual affair starting from the village of Kettlewell in the Yorkshire Dales. I’m gradually getting back into the running and so thought it about time I enter my first race in 18 months. I wasn’t sure how my fitness would compare with how it was before I got injured, and so didn’t really have a clue where I would come in the race.

The route is a classic and relentless 4-mile straight up and down, with barely any respite in either direction. Intense would be an apt description, as right from the off you are thrown up a barely-runable field, before being let loose onto the energy-zapping, shoe-snatching bogs that, whilst being slightly flatter, are equally as draining. A few rockier sections in between where a welcome break, despite being the steepest parts of the race. The descent is equally as punishing, not necessarily because of the terrain, but because it isĀ fast.

Struggling my way up!

Struggling my way up!

I set out in around 30th position and soon worked my way up to 20th by the end of the first field. Lactic acid was pumping through my legs and my breathing was laboured, but I felt surprisingly good and decided to push on at the same pace. I picked up another couple of places over the next mile or so to put myself in around 15th at the summit. I naively thought that I would get a rest on the way down, but I realised this wouldn’t be the case as the guy in front set off back down at a blistering pace. I was soon overtaken by a few others, by managed to hang on to 18th position by none-less-than a sprint all the way down. I took a few tumbles in the tussocky bog, but fortunately didn’t do myself any injuries.

On the descent

On the descent

I was a mere few seconds from 17th place at the finish – perhaps had the race been 200m longer I would have got it – but in the end I was very pleased with my 36:25, especially when compared with the winning time of 31:49 from Ian Holmes. Can’t wait until the next race!

Thanks to Woodentops for the great pictures!