6 September 2015 – Guisborough 3 Tops
– Final English Fell Championship Race
After a great club performance at Lingmell saw us in 3rd position in the FRA English Men’s Team Championships, there was some small amount of panic when we realised we might not even have a full team roster for the final race at Guisborough. With Bronze medals up for grabs, we needed to put in one last decent effort – especially since Helm Hill were very close behind us and would undoubtedly be pushing to grab the shiny bronze trinkets for themselves…
Of course, this being P&B, some of the quick lads had pressing engagements elsewhere: Graham Pearce was in the middle of a marathon tasting session in his beer shop; Rob had gone for a wander on Boulsworth Hill to do some watercolour landscapes; and Jamie P came up with some excuse about representing Great Britain at an Orienteering event in Antwerp…
Thankfully a ragtag bunch was assembled, with Mark Nixon stepping in for his season debut – brimming with confidence and promising to save the day!
Mark has kindly recollected his experience at the sharp end of the race (and apologises in advance for his spelling), but before we go into that, here’s a quick maths problem: If a group of 10 fell runners are leading a race and 3 of them are wearing P&B vests, what is the percentage chance that they will get lost?
Read on for the answer:
Last weekend I headed down to Yorkshire for the Guisborough 3 Peaks fell race, the final counter in the English Championships and my first fell race in 25 months. My goal was to do well enough to earn myself a spot in Pudsey & Bramley’s team for the FRA relays. I had no idea what to expect from this race to be honest. The lack of fell racing isn’t particularly an issue, it’s the year and a half with pretty much no training that was more of a concern. I’ve managed to get some miles in the bank over the summer, but not what I’d call ‘training’. A new ParkRun PB (16:13) a couple of weekends ago gave me some confidence that I might be in some sort of shape, but there’s a bit of a difference between a pan-flat 5km and a 10m fell race.
My plan was to go out conservatively, and then try and push on after the opening loop once we’d got onto the hill proper. I stood a few rows back at the start, and settled in for the first few hundred meters. After a minute or so of feeling comfortable I pushed on, getting in front of the first women. Before long we got to the first turning and the first 15 or so runners went straight past it. Not surprising really, it was marked by a tiny scrap of paper with an arrow drawn on it. When we got to the top section above the quarry a small lead pack started to form. I don’t really know what anyone looks like, but it had a number of vests that I recognised anyway; Calder Valley (Kay, Grey, Ellis), Helm Hill (Addison’s), Burrowdale (Donnelly), Dark Peak (Little), Mercia (Vale), plus a few more, with team-mate Matt Lockyer sitting at the back. I quick glance over my shoulder and I notice I’m starting to find myself in no-man’s-land. I had to make a choice, and decided I would push on and go with the leaders. As it was a flat track run at this point, I didn’t feel the need to bridge urgently, it was only about 5m or so, but it was the sort of distance where the elastic could easily snap. I decided to wait until the downhill back through the finish area. I knew the descent was single-track, so they would line out a bit and the gap would pretty much close on itself due to the lead group bottle-necking. When the gap was closed I would push on with them.”
And then things went wrong. The descent that I knew existed, had picked out on the route map as an interesting point, and was going to use to make my move never actually arrive. We were marshaled off of the top track down a small path. This curved steeply onto another track. As I came down to this junction I knew this was the top of the descent, and was going to make a choice about taking the smaller path, or sticking to the track. But people didn’t go that way, they kept heading west along the forest track. I hesitate, Lockyer hesitate. We both vocalised our concerns, but the pack kept steaming on. There were also a couple of people standing at this junction. My memory tells me that they pointed/instructed the lead runners along the track, and so I just tucked in. I don’t know if this actually happened or not, but at the time it’s what I thought was happening. Anyway, after a slightly hesitant couple of hundred meters I decided to stop and get my map out, as I did so I looked back and could see people coming down to that junction and then piling into the forest below. Fuck! I seemed to be one of the first to notice though, and was running back through people before getting onto the race route.
Once I was back on track I had no choice but to sit in, we were now on the single track section, which was also pretty slippy. Back through the finish line and I couldn’t really see the front. I kept pretty calm, as I knew it wasn’t a huge mistake. No point burning all my matches to catch people I was going to catch anyway. Up the muddy path I put in a couple moves, when there was room, but just waited until we hit the track before opening up. I knew all the top guys were stuck in the same queue as me, but even further back. So my plan was now to cruise onwards until they came past, and then tuck in. Morgan Donnelly was my target man, mainly because I know what he looks like and he was the only Borrowdale vest anywhere near the front. The problem with this plan was that they never came back through!”
So, the end result was a none-too-shabby 3rd Team on the day, with Matt, Joe, and Mark putting in a cracking performance to finish in the top 10, and Niall just pipping ahead of Charlie for 4th counter.
But of course, the Championship Team results rely on 5 counters. After Captain Nixon had done the maths, it transpired we didn’t quite get enough Team points to improve our overall standing in the Championships… but neither did we lose any places.
Helm Hill actually needed to beat Dark Peak or Calder Valley on the day in order to get enough points to knock us out of third, meaning we’ve still retained Bronze medal postition in the English Champs — thanks to DP & CVFR, then. Cheers lads, Joe Baxter says he’ll buy you all drinks at the FRA do.
A big well done to those galliant P&B that worked hard on the day and whose individual standings in the Open Champs have no doubt improved as a result. And of course, it would be remiss of me not to mention Claire Green who had a stormer of a race finishing 6th Lady.
And, just in case you were wondering, Jamie Parkinson, competing against some of the best International orienteerers, finished 7th overall in the Elite Men’s Category. Top work.
Matt Lockyer 7th 01:11:20. Joe Baxter 9th 01:11:51. Mark Nixon 10th 01:11:51. Niall Bourke 73rd 01:22:25. Charlie McIntosh 74th 01:22:43. Claire Green 81st (6th Lady) 01:24:39. Matthew Seddon 93rd 01:27:04.